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Chavez inspects helicopter factory on last day of trip

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is on the final day of his official visit to Russia. On Saturday he visits Russia’s Southern city of Rostov-on-Don, home of one of Russia's largest helicopter factories.

But before the business part of his trip, Hugo Chavez joined other CIS leaders at a racecourse in Rostov-on-Don. There he watched the annual President's Prize race along with Vladimir Putin and the presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova and Uzbekistan.  All had horses running in their name.
This year’s prize money is almost $US 300,000.
It's the fourth time in recent times that the race meeting has been held, which signals the end of the political season.
The event was a regular fixture on the social calendar in the time of the tsars, before the revolution.

Earlier, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez visited Belarus for snap talks with the Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Also on Friday Hugo Chavez met Boris Gryzlov, the State Duma Chairman, and addressed a group of legislators in Moscow.

About 60 Duma Deputies were present for the speech. Earlier, the pro-Kremlin United Russia party vetoed a suggestion from the Communists enabling Chavez to address the entire House.  United Russia insisted such a meeting would not comply with established protocol in the State Duma.

The meeting has taken place behind closed doors, with no media access.

The leader of Russian communists, Gennady Zuganov, was sporting a red tie to highlight ideological closeness with the comandante. He left the meeting inspired by Chavez and disappointed by the Duma leadership. “We had so many top officials addressing the audience from the State Duma rostrum. Why was it not possible to give 30 minutes to the leader of Venezuela, the country which is moving towards us,” Gennady Zuganov wondered. Mr Zyuganov believes the idea to deny Chavez a central stage came from the Kremlin that wants avoid tensions ahead of Vladimir Putin’s visit to the United States.

But a pro-Kremlin deputy Konstantin Kosachyov denied any link. «…Definitely not. We do have specific national interests in our relations with Venezuela, as well as we have specific interests in relations with the United States, but we shouldn’t mix these two different things,» Mr Kosachyov stressed.  

Hugo Chavez has also visited the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to talk about the role of Russian energy companies in Venezuela.

Over the past two years, Venezuela has spent more than $US 3 BLN on arms in Russia, buying new Kalashnikov rifles, fighter jets and military helicopters.  The Russian media is reporting that this time Chavez may be shopping for diesel submarines to protect Venezuela’s oil rigs against possible U.S. aggression.

Boris Martynov, Deputy Director of the Institute of Latin American Countries in Moscow, says co-operation with Venezuela is beneficial to Russia insofar as it establishes ties with other Latin American countries.

To read full version of RT interview with Boris Martynov please follow this link
When addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez called him “a brother.” He persistently alluded to the ideological closeness between the two countries.

“Since 2001, when we first met, a lot of changes have taken place in the world.  And these changes are good for our geopolitical ideas, for our common interests,” he remarked.

Vladimir Putin, though, tried to steer clear of geopolitics, at least in public.

“We are to discuss our economic and military co-operation. I’m glad to see you here, welcome,” said the Russian President.

The meeting comes just days before Putin’s visit to the United States, which considers Chavez the main threat to stability in Latin America. So Western analysts reasonably suggested the visit could cast a shadow over Putin’s upcoming talks with U.S. President George Bush.
In Russia, however, there is less pessimism about the prospects for progress in dialogue between Russia and the United States.

“Our policy is neutral. Putin is meeting with both Hugo Chavez and George W. Bush. He maintains dialogue with Kim Jong-il and with the European Union. We are open for any talks,” says Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic faction in the State Duma.

Earlier, Vladimir Semago, a Deputy of the State Duma who knows Hugo Chavez, gave RT his view of the Venezuelan President's visit to Russia, in terms of politics, economic and military co-operation, even image-making.