Updated 8:47 AM EST, Fri, Mar 05, 2021

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Russia Looks to Economically Ravaged Venezuela to Boost Weapons Sales in South America


(Photo : Venezuelan Army) Т-72B1 main battle tanks of the Venezuelan Army.

Russia's arms sales to South American countries have nosedived since its invasion of Crimea in March 2014 and cash strapped Moscow hopes a new arms deal with cash-poor Venezuela might revive its flagging fortunes.

From 2005-2013, Venezuela was the largest buyer of Russian weapons in Latin America. Rosoboronexport, the state-owned form that exports Russian military hardware, concluded about 30 contracts worth $11 billion with Venezuela, which from 2002 until 2013 was headed by the late Hugo Chavez, a communist.

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Despite the massive recession currently battering Venezuela's economy and widespread hunger, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's successor, has approved a package of over 10 contracts for the delivery of weapons to Venezuela by the end of 2017, said Anatoly Punchuk, Deputy Director of Russia's Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation.

Punchuk did not reveal how much cash-strapped Venezuela will pay for the arms, but western experts believe it to be in the billions of U.S. dollars.

Venezuela, where inflation is expected to hit a staggering 1,600 percent this year, will have to find a way to pay for 12 more Sukhoi Su-30 multi-role jet fighters costing $480 million. In 2011, Russia extended a $4 billion loan on top of a $2 billion loan in 2009 so Venezuela could pay for its arms purchases.

Venezuela, as far as can be gleaned, has made scant repayments on these billion dollar loans given world oil prices remain weak.

"The implementation of a package of over 10 contracts concluded with Venezuela in 2009 has been actually completed," said Punchuk.

"The armor, missile and artillery armament, air defense systems and accompanying military equipment have been delivered to Venezuelan partners. The delivery of the remaining armament and military hardware under them is planned to be completed this year."

TASS military analyst Viktor Litovkin said Russia can thank Chavez for most of its contracts with Venezuela.

Among the big ticket military hardware Venezuela purchased from 2005-2013 were 24 Sukhoi Su-30MK2 multirole fighters; 34 Mi-17V-5 helicopters and 92 Т-72B1 main battle tanks. Venezuela also bought 100,000 AK-103 assault rifles for the National Bolivarian Armed Forces, whose active strength is over 100,000 personnel.

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