Russia to base nuclear warship and anti-submarine aircraft in Venezuela

Russia plans temporarily to base a nuclear-powered missile cruiser and anti-submarine aircraft in Venezuela, foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said Monday.

"Before the end of the year, as part of a long-distance expedition, we plan a visit to Venezuela by a Russian navy flotilla... and the temporary basing of anti-submarine aircraft of the Russian Navy at an airport in Venezuela," spokesman Andrei Nesterenko was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The Venezuelan navy announced Saturday that four Russian ships with almost 1,000 sailors aboard would carry out joint manoeuvres with the navy of Caracas leftist government in Venezuelan territorial waters on November 10-14.

The four ships will include the Peter the Great nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser and the Admiral Chabanenko anti-submarine ship, Nesterenko told a briefing in Moscow.

The visit has been planned for a long time and "is not in any way connected to the current situation in the Caucasus," said Nesterenko, referring to tensions over Russia’s incursion into U.S. ally Georgia in August.

"It is not aimed at any third country," he said.

Medvedev accused the United States of rearming Georgia under the guise of humanitarian aid, after Friday’s arrival of the U.S. Navy's Mediterranean flagship at a key Georgian port close to where Russian troops are patrolling.

"I wonder how they would like it if we sent humanitarian assistance using our navy to countries of the Caribbean that have suffered from the recent hurricanes," Medvedev said.

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The 'Peter the Great' is large and heavily armed with both surface-to-surface and around 500 surface-to-air missiles, Jon Rosamund, the editor of Jane's Navy International, a specialist publication told Reuters.

"On paper it's an immensely powerful ship," he said. "We are not really sure if this is a show of force or if it poses a viable operational capability at this stage," Rosamund said.

"These ships have far more capability, on paper, than the U.S. destroyers that went to the Black Sea, but it's difficult to compare capacity," Rosamund said. "The Russian navy is keen to be seen on the world stage."

Admiral Eduard Baltin, former commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, said the Caribbean manoeuvres meant "Russia is returning to the stage in its power and international relations which it, regrettably, lost at the end of last century".

"No one loves the weak," Baltin was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency.

Leftist-populist President Hugo Chavez, a harsh critic of the U.S. government, has forged closer ties with Moscow including arms supply and production deals.

Chavez has supported Moscow in the Georgia conflict, and stressed that "Russia is rising up again as a global power."

Russia’s defense ministry in July denied a report it was considering basing bomber aircraft in Cuba in retaliation for U.S. missile defense plans in Eastern Europe.

"We regard these sorts of reports from anonymous sources as disinformation," RIA Novosti quoted defense ministry spokesman Ilshat Baichurin as saying.

[Source: Hot news Turkey, 09Sep08]

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