Friday, July 18, 2008

Chavez to purchase Russian submarines, Tor-M1 air defense missile systems, and military transport planes

MOSCOW, July 18 (RIA Novosti) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will arrive in Moscow on July 21 to discuss military and economic ties with the Russian leadership, a Spanish news agency said on Friday, citing Venezuelan officials.
Hugo Chavez begins a six-nation tour on Friday that will take him to Bolivia, Nicaragua, Spain, Russia, Belarus and Portugal.
The Efe news agency said Chavez would discuss the purchase of military hardware, including battle tanks, and setting up a joint Russian-Venezuelan banking venture.
Commenting on the agenda of the visit, Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy director of the Russian Center for Strategic and Technological Analysis, said in an interview with RIA Novosti that

"The sides may also discuss the purchase of Russian Project 636 Kilo-class diesel submarines, Tor-M1 air defense missile systems, and military transport planes."

Chavez earlier thanked Russia for providing easy-term loans to help modernize the Venezuelan Army. He pledged to continue military and technical cooperation, including the purchase of military hardware, such as Russian Sukhoi aircraft and helicopters.
Venezuela is a major purchaser of Russian weapons and hardware. In 2005-2006, Venezuela ordered weaponry from Russia worth $3.4 billion, including 24 Su-30MK2V Flanker fighters, Tor-M1 air defense missile systems, Mi-17B multi-role helicopters, Mi-35 Hind E attack helicopters, and Mi-26 Halo heavy transport helicopters.
The two countries have also prioritized cooperation in the energy and mining sectors. Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, the country's largest independent oil producer LUKoil, the Russian-British joint oil venture TNK-BP, aluminum giant RusAl and a number of other companies are active in the Venezuelan market.
In addition, Chavez has said he will discuss plans to set up a joint Russian-Venezuelan banking venture during his visit to Moscow.
Addressing leaders of Caribbean countries at the PetroCaribe summit last Sunday, Chavez said that, "the establishment of a joint bank [with Russia] will enhance our countries' economic and financial independence and contribute to an increase in investment - to the benefit of both nations."
Venezuela's state radio RNV earlier said the government had already adopted amendments to laws on the Central Bank in preparation for setting up the joint venture.
The socialist leader, an outspoken critic of Washington, has focused his foreign policy on bolstering ties with countries outside the U.S. sphere of influence since coming to power nine years ago.


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