Crimea map Moscow
People walk past a mural showing a map of Crimea in the Russian national colours on a street in MoscowReuters

The people of Crimea will have to pay off the money they owe to Ukraine's banks, despite the peninsula now falling under Moscow's jurisdiction, according to a Russian central bank official.

The statement marks a change in position by Moscow, which had suggested ignoring any payment demands.

Mikhail Sukhov, deputy chairman at Russia's central bank has said that residents of Crimea would have to pay their debts to the country which it formerly belonged to, Reuters reported.

"To pay or not to pay the loans is the responsibility of each person. But sooner or later they have to pay," Sukhov told Crimean news agency Novosti Krima.

"As soon as working relations improve between Ukraine and Russia, a bank will be found to become an intermediary between borrower and lender and will undertake debt collection."

He confirmed that Crimeans would pay their debts to Russian banks for the time being, but that there are no plans in the pipeline to return the money to Ukraine.

Russia, which annexed Crimea in March, had previously taken the stance that Crimeans would find it difficult to pay their loans back to banks as many branches had closed following Russia's takeover.

Reuters had even reported that President Vladimir Putin told a Crimean resident who was struggling to pay off his car loan: "Please use the car and don't worry."

Ukraine's central bank has said that it had $1.8bn in outstanding loans to Crimean residents and businesses when the peninsula was annexed.

Ukraine's leading banks have said that most of these loans are delinquent.