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Russia's $2 bln loan to Venezuela not linked to arms sales

RIA Novosti


CARACAS, April 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's $2.2 billion loan agreement with Venezuela is not tied to arms purchases, a Russian deputy finance minister said on Friday ahead of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit to the South American state.

Dmitry Pankin told journalists that the agreement was unlikely to be signed during Putin's visit.

"There is nothing in this loan agreement about arms purchases," Pankin said.

The length of the loan is seven years. Russia is due to issue the last tranche in 2012, with Venezuela to repay the loan in 2019.

The deal was agreed on during Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's visit to Moscow in September. Chavez said Caracas would buy 92 T-72 tanks and an unspecified number of Smerch multiple rocket launchers from Russia, among other military equipment.

Since 2005, Venezuela has bought $4 billion worth of Russian weaponry, including warplanes, helicopters, and Kalashnikov assault rifles.

During his visit to Caracas, Putin will oversee the delivery of the last four Russian Mi-17 Hip helicopters out of the total of 38 under a 2006 contract.

Relations between Russia and Venezuela have strengthened considerably over the past 10 years. The two countries have signed large-scale economic and energy cooperation agreements. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Venezuela in November 2008.

Putin will also meet with Bolivian President Evo Morales in Caracas.

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