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Venezuela will put two new Russian Su-30 fighter planes on combat
Venezuela will put two new Russian Su-30 fighter planes on combat duty on Friday, bringing the total number to 22, news agency ABN cited the president as saying.

Hugo Chavez told a meeting of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela: "From Friday we will have on combat duty 22 Russian Su-30 planes, which will fulfill the role of defending the independence and sovereignty of our country."

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.

The president also said that the first test launch of a Russian guided air-to-air missile will be carried out in the near future as part of the modernization of the Venezuelan armed forces.

"We are preparing for the launch of a Russian guided missile with a range of 115 kilometers (71 miles), about which we will give further details later," he said.

Chavez, a former military officer, said he may personally carry out the first launch of the new missile, controlled by the pilot via a television guidance system.

Next month, Venezuela plans to conclude several contracts with Russia on the purchase of military equipment worth at least $2 billion, Russian business daily Kommersant reported on Monday.

Chavez is expected to pay an official visit to Moscow in the near future to conclude the necessary agreements with Russia's new President Dmitry Medvedev, who earlier pledged to maintain close military cooperation with Caracas, the newspaper said.

Russia has repeatedly stated that it will actively participate in the modernization of the Venezuelan armed forces until 2013.


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