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Russia, Venezuela Wrap Up Joint Naval Exercise

December 3, 2008

Published: 2 Dec 17:44 EST (22:44 GMT)

kirov-heavy-cruiser-1144-362CARACAS, Venezuela – Russian warships Dec. 2 wrapped up two days of joint exercises with Venezuelan Navy vessels that were widely seen as a pointed challenge by Moscow to traditional U.S. influence in Latin America.

The maneuvers took place in Venezuela’s territorial waters in the Caribbean and involved a nuclear-powered cruiser, Peter the Great along with three other Russian ships and three Venezuelan frigates.

It marked the first time since the end of the Cold War that a Russian fleet had been in Latin America, often described as the “backyard” of the U.S.

Venezuelan state television network VTV showed images of the combined flotilla, and said the Russian vessels would leave Venezuelan waters later Dec. 2 for the return voyage home.

Russian and Venezuelan officials presented the exercise, called “VenRus 2008,” as an important step in closer Caracas-Moscow ties.

The two countries plan further joint training operations, including one that would see Venezuelan military ships pairing with Russian ones in the North Sea.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose strong anti-U.S. stance has precluded him from acquiring U.S. weapons, has turned to Russia for deals worth $4.4 billion over the past three years to supply him with radars, 24 Sukhoi-30 planes, 50 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikovs.

Sources:  Defense News

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