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 Venezuela may spend $5 bln on Russian arms in next decade 

MOSCOW, July 23 (RIA Novosti) - Venezuela may purchase weaponry from Russia worth $5 billion over the next 10 years, a Russian political analyst said on Wednesday.

During his official visit to Russia on Tuesday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Russian leadership reaffirmed their mutual drive to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation.

"Regardless of the situation on global arms markets, Venezuela under Hugo Chavez will continue to buy Russian weaponry, and may spend $5 billion or more over the next 10 years on imports of Russian military equipment," said Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

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

Pukhov said Russia is the only country supplying a wide range of weaponry to Venezuela.

"The European market is inaccessible to Caracas because of its high prices, and restrictions imposed by the U.S. on arms exports to Venezuela," he said.

He also said future contracts to buy arms from Russia may be concluded on the basis of loans rather than direct payments.

"It is clear that cash payments for Russian weaponry sales to Venezuela are a thing of the past. Future purchases will be made through transfers, and production licenses," Pukhov said.

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

Chavez dismissed on Tuesday rumors that Venezuela may spend up to $30 billion on purchases of Russian weaponry in the next four years.

"I do not know where these figures are coming from: $30 billion in four years? The amounts in contracts differ, it is a dynamic process," he told a news conference in Moscow.


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