Venezuela, Russia to hold joint naval drills in late November

RIA Novosti
Monday, Sept 8, 2008

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced the timeframe for the upcoming Russian-Venezuelan naval exercise, arranged in line with Russia's plans to extend its presence in international waters.

"Venezuela will hold joint naval exercises in the Caribbean in late November-early December," Chavez said Sunday on his weekly TV show, "Hello, President."

According to earlier media reports, Venezuelan navy officials said four Russian warships and a number of Venezuelan missile frigates, patrol boats, submarines and aircraft would take part in the joint drills on November 10-14.

The president dismissed criticism of the joint exercise with Russia by comparing it with the Southern Cross naval war games involving the Dutch, French and Brazilian navies, which are scheduled for November 2-14.

"Russia is a strategic partner of Venezuela and we will do everything possible ... to ensure the success of the upcoming exercise," Chavez said.

Chavez, an outspoken critic of Washington since coming to power nine years ago, has focused his foreign policy on bolstering ties with countries outside the U.S. sphere of influence.

In 2005-2006, Venezuela bought more than 50 combat helicopters, 24 Su-30MK2 fighters, 12 Tor-M1 air defense missile systems and 100,000 AK-103 rifles from Russia. Current arms contracts are worth about $4 billion, according to various sources.

Future deliveries may include Amur-class diesel submarines, Il-76MD military transport planes, Il-78 aerial tankers and air-defense missile systems.


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