Russia to modernize Nicaraguan military's arsenal

Russia's ambassador to Managua said Wednesday that his country will replace the Nicaraguan army's aging weaponry.

Ambassador Igor S. Kondrashev said there are no plans, however, to expand the Central American country's military arsenal.

Nicaragua acquired most of its arms and military equipment from the former Soviet Union in the 1980s, when the leftist Sandinista government was fighting U.S.-backed rebels. The army has insisted it needs new helicopters and Navy ships to patrol Caribbean waters, where there is a boundary dispute with Colombia.

Kondrashev made the comments in an interview with Canal 8 TV station, but he did not say if Russia would ask for financial compensation or would simply replace the equipment as a gift to Nicaragua — which was one of the first nations to support Russia in its war against Georgia.

Kondrashev applauded President Daniel Ortega's government for formally recognizing the independence of the Russian-backed breakaway Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on Sept. 5.

Kondrashev also did not say the plans included replacement of Nicaragua's shoulder-fired SAM-7 missiles. The United States has been trying to negotiate destruction of those weapons to keep them from landing in terrorists' hands.

Last year, Ortega promised to destroy more than 650 of Nicaragua's remaining 1,051 Soviet-made missiles in exchange for hospital equipment and medicine from the United States.

Russia also has been building military ties with Ortega's ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Kondrashev said a group of Russian experts would visit Nicaragua next month to identify other potential joint projects, including petroleum exploration in the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean and the construction of roads and bridges.

[Source: By Filadelfo Aleman, AP, Managua, 24Sep08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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