Russia signs $1bln aircraft contract with Venezuela-Ivanov

Russia has signed a contract on supplies of military planes and helicopters to Venezuela worth over $1 billion, the defense minister said Friday.

Sergei Ivanov said 30 Su-30 Flanker air-superiority fighters and 30 helicopters would be supplied to Venezuela.

The Russian Su-30 Flankers will replace a Venezuelan contingent of U.S. F-16 multi-role fighters after Washington imposed an embargo on arms sales to the country May 15, which it says poses a threat to regional stability.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has moved to curb American influence in the region and consolidate ties with other South American nations since he came to power in 1998, earlier accused the United States of breaching an agreement to supply parts for Venezuela's F-16s.

Oil-rich Venezuela is a major purchaser of Russian weapons and hardware.

In late 2004, the two countries signed a $54 million contract for the supply of 100,000 automatic rifles.

In June this year, the outspoken Chavez said he planned to build a plant to make Kalashnikov rifles and cartridges in the country.

In mid 2005, Caracas signed a contract to buy six Mi-17 Hip and eight Mi-35 Hind multi-purpose helicopters from Russia, which has already supplied three of the aircraft.

[Source: Russian Information Agency (Novosti), Moscow, 21Jul06]

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