Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is arriving in Moscow today with an official visit. The development of the military cooperation between Russia and Venezuela will be one of the key subjects of discussion. At present moment Russian defense specialists are working on a package of contracts to deliver Russian weaponry to Venezuela. It goes about Russian battle planes and helicopters, land and sea arms and the construction of a factory manufacturing Kalashnikov guns and ammunition.
It was previously reported that Hugo Chavez was going to visit Russia to discuss the questions of economic cooperation with Russia. Russia and Venezuela give first priority to fuel and energy, because the two countries are ranked one of the world’s largest makers and exporters of oil.
The president of Venezuela arrived in the city of Izhevsk (Udmurtia republic) in the morning today. Local authorities took Chavez to Izhmash factory which is known in Russia for its defense products. Hugo Chavez attended the shooting range where he was demonstrated up-to-date models of Russian firearms in action.
Chavez visited the republic of Udmurtia without any intention to sign official documents. He particularly visited Kalashnikov’s Museum of Firearsm in Izhevsk. Hugo Chavez said that Mikhail Kalashnikov was a “hero of his great fatherland, Russia.” “The machine gun that he designed is the best firearm in the world,” he said.
It is worthy of note that Venezuela signed a deal to purchase 100,000 Kalashnikov guns from Russia in the spring of 2005. The first batch (30-35 thousand guns) was shipped to Caracas in June of the current year.
The US administration set out its concerns regarding Russia’s intention to sell Su-30 fighter jets and military helicopters to Venezuela. White House official spokesman Tom Casey told reporters Tuesday that the arm deals planned by Caracas exceeded its defense needs. The US official pointed out that there were healthy and productive relations between Russia and the USA, which could be seen during George Bush’s visit to St.Petersburg for the G8 summit. Casey added that the opinion of the US administration pertaining Russia’s military deals with Venezuela was obvious. “We hope that Russia will revise the deal because we believe that it is not in the interests of either Russia or Venezuela,” the official added.
Washington previously expressed its concerns regarding the sales of Russian pursuit planes to Venezuela. The USA imposed an embargo on the delivery of US-made weaponry to Venezuela under the guise of Caracas’s supposedly insufficient cooperation in the field of anti-terrorist struggle. Hugo Chavez believed that the US sanctions were meant to weaken the Venezuelan army. Furthermore, the USA cut F-16 spare parts deliveries to Caracas as well. That is why Chavez decided to purchase up-to-date pursuit planes from Russia to modernize the national air force. According to Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, the contract to deliver Su-30 pursuit planes and military helicopters to Venezuela is evaluated at more than one billion dollars.
Venezuelan officials think that the US government does not have to worry too much about their agreements with Russia, which are said to be signed during Chavez’s visit to Russia. "The United States should not worry so much about Venezuela. They should worry for other things having an impact on other regions around the world," Venezuela’s Vice President Vicente Rangel said. He insisted that Bush administration should take care of their people "who are in a very delicate position from the point of view of marginality and illegal drug consumption."
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
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