Russian to Greeks: Look to sovereign wealth funds

As the Greek debt negotiations lurch from one bruising round to the next, perhaps it's time for Athens to broaden its search for funding. At least that's the suggestion from Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia's sovereign wealth fund.

"Well, frankly, I believe there is tremendous opportunity to work with the world's best sovereign funds. They have lots of capital and they're starting to become even more energetic and even more innovative in their approaches, so thinking of how countries can work with them, how they can attract capital and strike deals that will win yields, I think it's a very important aspect, and I think Greece can definitely do that..." Dmitriev, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), told CNBC in Moscow on Monday.

Dmitriev is experienced in hunting for new sources of funding, since Ukraine-related sanctions imposed on Russia have shut off access to western capital markets. Subsequently, RDIF has sought support for Russian businesses from Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

A recent partnership between RDIF and the mammoth China Construction Bank will facilitate debt financing of creditworthy Russian companies by Chinese banks, which could potentially unlock as much as $25 billion in loans in the near- to mid-term.

But what about direct financial aid for the Greek government from Russia? So far Moscow's support has been purely verbal and Dmitriev said it was not a route the state-owned $10 billion RDIF was interested in following.

Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive officer of Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).
Scott Eelis | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive officer of Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).

"Well, from our fund, definitely not financial support and if the government decides to do something on its own, that's a question to them," he told CNBC.

While the Russia government has not extended aid to Greece, the two countries are talking about a gas pipeline deal that could provide some support in the future.

Dmitriev said he was hopeful that the Greeks would resolve their crisis soon, with Athens locked in a rancorous aid-for-reforms debate with international creditors.

"Well, we think that Greece will figure out a solution by working with the European Union, by working with Russia and some kind of compromise has to be reached, because Greece's economy is obviously very important for EU's economy and we hope that some compromise will be there. And Russia is definitely supportive of Greece in resolving any kind of financial issues and problems it may have," he told CNBC.

Meanwhile, don't ignore the Russia-Greece sanctions nexus. Greece's rolled-up payments to its debtors come due at the end of the month—just as Washington and the EU plan to roll over sanctions on Russia.

Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos has said that Western sanctions against Russia have already cost Greece $4.4 billion in lost income from Russian trade. The Minister has claimed that the U.S. has urged the Greeks to support new sanctions ahead of a final decision on Russia—which Athens appears reluctant to do.

In the current stalemate in negotiations Athens may feel there's more value in reminding the world about its Russian connections than chasing Russian, or sovereign wealth money.

Clarification: This article has been updated with further information about RDIF's partnership with the China Construction Bank.