Russia, Venezuela to start naval drills in Caribbean

December 1st, 2008 - 7:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Caracas/Moscow, Dec 1 (RIA Novosti) Russia and Venezuela are set to begin two-day joint naval exercises in the Caribbean. Four Russian and 12 Venezuelan ships will practice sea rescue operations and manoeuvring, and conduct live-firing artillery drills beginning Monday.

The exercises will include tactics to counter terrorism and drug trafficking, and will involve helicopters and planes, Russian and Venezuelan officials said earlier.

The Russian warships, led by the nuclear-powered cruiser Pyotr Veliky (Peter, The Great) arrived in Venezuela last week - the first such deployment since the Cold War - ahead of the Russian president’s first visit to the Latin American country.

The exercises are widely seen as Moscow’s response to the United States’ aid to Georgia after the latter’s brief war with Russia and US plans to deploy missiles in Central Europe. Russia has denied any connection.

Two Russian strategic bombers carried out patrols along the coast of South America in October.

During their visit to Russia’s Admiral Chabanenko destroyer last week, President Dmitry Medvedev and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez said the planned drills were designed to ensure stability in the region and were not aimed against third countries.

They said other Latin American states could join their countries’ naval exercises in the future.

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