Page last updated at 11:45 GMT, Monday, 8 September 2008 12:45 UK

Russian navy to visit Venezuela

Peter the Great heavy cruiser
Peter the Great is one of Russia's most prestigious warships

The Russian navy has announced that some of its ships will visit Venezuela in November and may hold joint exercises in its territorial waters.

A senior Venezuelan naval official said earlier there were plans to hold exercises involving four Russian warships and 1,000 Russian troops.

Confirming a visit would be made, Russia said its ships would include the heavy cruiser Peter the Great.

Anti-submarine planes would also be sent to Venezuela temporarily, it said.

Correspondents say the move is likely to raise concern in the US, whose relations with Russia have been soured by Moscow's recent conflict in Georgia.

Washington already has rocky relations with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.

Mr Chavez welcomed news of the Russian naval visit in his weekly broadcast. Referring to possible US concerns, he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying: "Go ahead and squeal, Yankees."

In July, he called for a strategic alliance with Russia to protect Venezuela from the US.

Caracas and Moscow agreed to extend bilateral co-operation on energy, with three Russian energy companies to be allowed to operate in Venezuela.

'Great importance'

Confirming plans for the visit in November, Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said it was not aimed against any third country.

Nor, he added, had it any connection to events in Georgia.

As well as the nuclear-powered Peter the Great, the Russian ships will include the anti-submarine ship Admiral Chabanenko.

On Saturday, Venezuelan Rear Admiral Salbatore Cammarata Bastidas said Venezuelan aircraft and submarines would be involved in exercises with the Russians.

"This is of great importance because it is the first time it is being done [in the Americas]," he said in a statement quoted by the AFP news agency and local media.

President Chavez supported Russia's intervention in Georgia last month and has accused Washington of being scared of Moscow's "new world potential".

In his weekly broadcast, Mr Chavez said: "Russia's naval fleet is welcome here. If it's possible, we'll stage an exercise in our Caribbean waters."

FROM OTHER NEWS SITES Russia May Hold Naval Maneuvers With Venezuela - 43 mins ago Chavez Wants Russian Ships in Caribbean - 49 mins ago
Miami HeraldRussians to bring war games to Caribbean - 4 hrs ago
Itar Tass Visit of Russia warships in Venezuela under consideration - Chavez. - 5 hrs ago
Boston GlobeRussia to join Venezuela naval drill - 5 hrs ago
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