Monday, 5 April 2010

Russian PM Putin eyes $5bn arms deals with Venezuela

Russia may have sold weapons worth more than $5bn (£3.3bn) to Venezuela, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said in the wake of his visit to Caracas last week.

The deals include a $2.2bn seven-year loan that Moscow extended to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last year.

Mr Putin, speaking at a government meeting in Moscow, said the contracts would go to 13 Russian weapons firms.

The US has previously expressed concern at Russian arms sales to Mr Chavez, a long-time adversary of Washington.

"Our delegation just returned from Venezuela. I want to inform you that the total volume of orders could exceed $5bn," Mr Putin said at the Moscow meeting. He gave no further details of the deals.

President Chavez has already agreed military purchases worth more than $4bn with Moscow since 2005, including Sukhoi jet fighters, helicopters, tanks and assault rifles.

The Venezuelan leader dismissed US fears during Mr Putin's weekend visit.

"We are not building an alliance against the United States. We don't care what Washington thinks," Mr Chavez said on Friday.

Last November, Mr Chavez told his troops to "prepare for war" with neighbouring Colombia to counter a planned increase in the number of US troops based there.

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