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Russia pledges to continue arms deliveries to Venezuela

RIA Novosti


CARACAS, April 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will continue deliveries of military equipment to Venezuela to help the Latin American country boost its national defense, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Saturday.

"We will continue to support the development of the armed forces of Venezuela. As you know, Russia has already delivered the most efficient Su-30 heavy fighters and other military equipment to Venezuela," Putin said at a joint news conference after a meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas.

The Russian prime minister arrived in Venezuela on Friday for talks on a range of issues including military-technical cooperation and joint business projects primarily in the energy sphere.

Putin said that Russia was ready to grant Venezuela a $2.2-bln loan, which Chavez had requested during his visit to Moscow last year.

At least part of this loan could be used for the purchase of over 90 T-72 tanks and an unspecified number of Smerch multiple rocket launchers, or even diesel-powered submarines and S-300 air defense systems.

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

No new military-technical agreements were signed on Friday but Russia delivered the last four of 38 Mi-17 military transport helicopters earlier purchased by Venezuela.

Chavez, whose domestic and international policies have been lately criticized by the country's opposition, says Venezuela needs to boost its defenses to protect its oil riches from a possible U.S. attack.

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