Chavez pronounces Russian visit a success

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he's pleased with the results of his three-day visit to Russia, saying considerable progress had been made on economic issues.

Earlier Mr Chavez held talks with President Vladimir Putin and met with lawmakers from State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament.

On Saturday Chavez visited one of Russia's largest helicopter factories in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don. After being shown some of the aircraft, he invited senior managers to Venezuela to work on joint projects.

Before the business part of his trip, Mr 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 was 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.

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 took place behind closed doors, with no media access.

The leader of Russia's Communists, Gennady Zyuganov, sported a red tie to highlight his ideological closeness to Chavez. He left the meeting inspired by the Venezuelan 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 Zyuganov wondered. He says the decision to deny Chavez a bigger stage came from the Kremlin, which wants to avoid tensions ahead of Vladimir Putin’s visit to the United States.

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

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 reports 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 a full version of RT interview with Boris Martynov please follow the link.

In talks with President Putin, Hugo Chavez called him “a brother.” He persistently alluded to the ideological closeness of 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 came just days before Putin’s visit to the United States, which considers Chavez the main threat to stability in Latin America. Western analysts suggested the visit could cast a shadow over Putin’s 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,” said Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic faction in the State Duma.

Duma Deputy Vladimir Semago, 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, and even image-making.