NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Searching for a way out of a crippling financial crisis, officials in Cyprus on Wednesday pursued a new bailout strategy that could include a loan from Russia in exchange for natural gas leases and selling off assets from its most troubled banks.
Cyprus needs to come up with 5.8 billion euros ( $7.5 billion) on its own in order to secure 10 billion euros in rescue loans from international creditors. But the country's first plan to seize as much as 10 percent of people's bank accounts failed miserably. Now, officials are trying to limit the amount of money they need to take from customer's deposits.
The new "Plan B" could be voted on as early as today, three top government officials said.
The latest move came a day after lawmakers voted overwhelmingly against the earlier plan, a rejection that threw Cyprus' entire bailout into question. That raised the possibility that the nation's banks could collapse, the government would be unable to pay its bills, and Cyprus could be forced out of the euro.
That could roil global financial markets and endanger deposits in the country even more.
The new "Plan B" was described by three top government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the proposal were not being released until party officials had a chance to review them at a meeting this morning. The plan could be voted on by Parliament as early as this evening, one official said.
The package includes a proposal to restructure Cyprus' heavily indebted second-largest lender, Laiki. The idea would be to isolate the bank's bad assets, which would be taken over by the government, from its good assets, which could be sold off to raise money. That strategy could also be applied to the country's biggest lender, Bank of Cyprus.
To avoid bank runs and give officials time to push through the package, the country's banks, which have been shuttered since Saturday, will remain closed for the rest of the week, said central bank spokeswoman Aliki Stylianou. Monday is a bank holiday, so banks will not reopen before Tuesday.
Cyprus has turned to longtime ally Russia for help. Finance Minister Michalis Sarris was in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss aid options and vowed to remain there until he secured a pledge of support.
Nearly one-third of the total deposits in Cyprus' banks is believed to be held by Russians. The idea that authorities could dip directly into bank accounts had outraged Cypriots and Russians alike.
A Cypriot government official said the new proposal still includes some tax on deposits, but at a percentage far lower than initially proposed. The official said the EU had given Cyprus until Monday to offer an alternative, so speed was of the essence. The European Union and Germany, in particular, long have argued that they should not have to ask their own taxpayers to contribute to bailing out a nation when Russian oligarchs would benefit.