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Russia may need to increase state support to airlines as pandemic bites - c.bank

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MOSCOW, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Russian airlines could require additional state funding to help them pay off debts built up as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and a weakening rouble, a central bank report published on Thursday said.

The report said corporate debt had risen 14% due to COVID-19 and the fall in the rouble, which has slid more than 20% against the U.S. dollar this year due to lower oil prices, the economic fallout of the pandemic and geopolitical risks.

These factors could contribute to delays in companies paying their debts and make it more difficult for those in particularly hard-hit sectors like aviation to return to pre-crisis level revenues.

"Given airlines' increased debt burden and higher spending on measures linked to epidemiological safety, the industry could need further government support for them to be in a stable financial condition," the central bank said.

Russian airlines have lost around half their revenue during the pandemic, with passenger traffic falling more than 46% in the first nine months of the year to just under 60 million people.

The Russian government earmarked 23.4 billion roubles ($309.2 million) in compensation to airlines - including nearly 7.9 billion for state carrier Aeroflot - as the country grounded flights and imposed lockdowns during the pandemic.

The government has also supported Aeroflot by purchasing 50 billion roubles worth of its new shares using funds from the National Wealth Fund.

Russia has resumed some international flights, including to Britain, Turkey and Tanzania.

($1 = 75.6700 roubles) (Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya and Gleb Stolyarov; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Jan Harvey)