MOSCOW, May 12 (RIA Novosti) - Venezuela is planning to conclude several contracts with Russia next month on the purchase of military equipment worth at least $2 billion, a leading Russian business daily said on Monday.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is expected to pay an official visit to Moscow at the end of May to conclude the necessary agreements with Russia's new President Dmitry Medvedev, who earlier pledged to maintain close military cooperation with Caracas, the Kommersant newspaper reported.
Oil-rich Venezuela is a major purchaser of Russian weapons and hardware. In 2005-2006, Venezuela ordered weaponry from Russia worth $3.4 billion, including 24 Su-30MK2V Flanker fighters, Tor-M1 air defense missile systems, Mi-17B multi-role helicopters, Mi-35 Hind E attack helicopters and Mi-26 Halo heavy transport helicopters.
Russia has repeatedly stated that it will actively participate in the modernization of the Venezuelan armed forces until 2013.
Kommersant said negotiations were underway on the purchase of 10 Il-76 Candid military transport planes and two Il-78-MK aerial tankers for the Venezuelan Air Force. The contract will be worth a total of $600 million.
Deliveries will be completed next year. The aircraft will replace six outdated American Lockheed C-130H Hercules transport planes and two Boeing 707-320C aerial tankers.
Venezuela and Russia have also agreed on the purchase of four Kilo-class Project 636 diesel submarines. The terms of the deal, estimated at $1.2 billion, were negotiated late last year.
The Project 636 submarine is designed for anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface-ship warfare, and also for general reconnaissance and patrol missions. It is considered to be one of the quietest diesel submarines in the world.
In addition, Caracas has expressed an interest in purchasing Mi-28NE Night Hunter attack helicopters.
Kommersant said Venezuela may buy at least 10 Night Hunters for a total of $200 million, with delivery beginning in the second half of 2009.
The advanced Mi-28N helicopters were inducted into the Russian Air Force last September. The first four aircraft will join the Russian Air Force in 2009 after additional testing.
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The current contract portfolio of Russian arms exporters is worth about $46 billion. Annual exports total $15 billion, and this will ensure uninterrupted deliveries for the next three years, even in the worst-case scenario. The list of the main buyers of Russian weapons is unlikely to change drastically.