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Venezuela to build strong air defenses with Russian aid

RIA Novosti

11:15 14/09/2009 MOSCOW, September 14 (RIA Novosti) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced plans to create a multi-layered air defense network in the country with the help of a Russian $2.2 bln loan secured last week.

"We have decided to build a strong air defense network...And we have to thank the Russian government, which approved a $2.2 billion loan for arms spending," Chavez said on his weekly television show late on Sunday.

According to the president, the network will comprise Russian-made S-300, Buk-M2 and Pechora air defense systems to ensure the protection of Venezuelan air space and key infrastructure from various ranges.

The deal with Russia, struck during a visit to Moscow by Chavez last week, also includes the purchase of 92 T-72 main battle tanks and an undisclosed number of Smerch multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS).

Between 2005 and 2007, Moscow and Caracas signed 12 contracts worth more than $4.4 billion to supply arms to Venezuela, including fighter jets, helicopters and Kalashnikov assault rifles.

Chavez reiterated that the country plans to buy more weaponry from Russia over a possible increase in U.S. military personnel in neighboring Colombia and alleged U.S. plans to invade Venezuela and seize its oil fields.

The president said weaponry acquired from Russia "would give us a stronger feel of security."


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