Ukraine will ask the International Monetary Fund to refinance its debt stemming from a 2008-2009 bailout programme, but can repay it if the Fund turns down the request, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov told Reuters on Monday.

“Ukraine will thoroughly meet all of its obligations, including those to the IMF but we have the right to ask for our debt to be offset by the next tranche (under a new, current programme),” Azarov said in an interview. “If they refuse, we will repay (the debt).”

According to Azarov, such a possibility was discussed at a meeting with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde late in January 2012.

"I told this to Mrs. Lagarde, when we discussed these questions... If the IMF, for example, fails to give us the second tranche of the stand-by loan for some reason, then, at least, Ukraine has the right to ask the IMF not to insist on the repayment of the debt that was formed in 2008," the prime minister said.

Ukraine must repay about $3.1 billion to the Fund this year.

Azarov's government agreed a $15 billion stand-by programme with the IMF in 2010 but the Fund halted lending in early 2011 after the cabinet refused to introduce unpopular reforms such as raising the price of gas and heating for households.

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