Venezuela to Buy More Than $5 Billion in Russian Arms

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Venezuela plans to buy new weaponry from Russia valued at more than $5 billion.

“Our delegation has just returned from Venezuela and the total amount of purchases could exceed $5 billion,” said Putin during a meeting in Moscow on the development of the country’s armaments industry.

The figure includes the $2.2 billion loan that Moscow will provide to Caracas for the acquisition of new Russian weapons, the premier said at a forum on developing Russia’s defense industry.

“The financing sources have already determined the basics and agreed with our partners,” said Putin about the agreements he reached last week with the government of Hugo Chavez during a visit to Caracas.

Venezuela, which since 2005 has purchased $4.4 billion of Russian arms, has become the Russian defense industry’s biggest customer in Latin America prompting expressions of concern from neighboring Colombia and the United States, which provides Bogota with roughly $500 million a year in military aid.

Specifically, Venezuela has already bought 100,000 assault rifles, 24 Su-30MK2 fighter-bombers and 51 helicopters.

In addition, an agreement is in progress to build in Venezuela a plant to manufacture Kalashnikov rifles and another one to make ammunition.

Russian sources say Venezuela now wants to buy three Varshavianka-class diesel submarines, 92 T-72 tanks, several dozen BMP-3 armored vehicles, 10 Mi-28N combat helicopters, Il-114 patrol airplanes and air defense systems.

Caracas is also interested in Mirash patrol boats, Murena-E landing craft and mobile coastal artillery systems capable of sinking vessels up to 130 kilometers (81 miles) away, according to military sources at the Interfax news agency.

Among other offers, Moscow is proposing to Caracas that it buy several dozen An-148 military transport aircraft and Chavez has already announced the acquisition of at least one Be-200 amphibious aircraft to use in putting out forest fires. EFE