MOSCOW, July 26 (RIA Novosti) - Venezuela's president arrived in one of Russia's leading defense-industry cities Wednesday morning to tour the home plant of the Kalashnikov assault rifle and meet the regional leadership, a spokesman for the local authorities said.
Hugo Chavez touched down in Izhevsk, the capital of the Republic of Udmurtia about 700 miles east of Moscow, and will meet with regional leader Alexander Volkov and gun-maker Mikhail Kalashnikov later in the day, Denis Loginov said.
The outspoken South American leader, who was elected president in 1998 , is on a tour of eastern Europe in a bid to expand ties with the region, which is home to some of the world's leading defense-industry plants and has considerable mineral wealth.
A high-profile regional delegation greeted Chavez at an airport, including Volkov and Vladimir Gorodetsky, director of the Izhevsk Mechanical Plant (IMP), which designs and produces most of the Russian Army's small arms.
Loginov said the Venezuelan leader's agenda would start with a tour of a shooting range, where he would watch test-firing of the arms produced by the plant.
A plant's official refused to disclose what Chavez would discuss with the management, but said the plant had already delivered to Venezuela over 30,000 AK-103 automatic rifles in late June under a contract for the supply of 100,000 automatic rifles.
In June, Chavez said he wanted to build a plant to make Kalashnikov rifles and cartridges in his country under license.
Oil-rich Venezuela is a major purchaser of Russian weapons and hardware. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said last week that Russia had signed a contract on supplies of military planes and helicopters to Venezuela worth over $1 billion.
Izhevsk is the second stop of Chavez during his Russia tour. On Tuesday, he visited the southern Russian city of Volgograd, where he paid a visit to the Volgograd Tractor Plant, which produces tanks and other military vehicles.
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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.