FACTBOX-Russia's ties with Venezuela: arms, energy, politics
April 2 |
April 2 (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin arrived in Caracas on Friday to bolster energy and defense ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and launch a $20 billion joint venture to tap the Orinoco heavy oil belt. [ID:nN02144741]
Following are facts about relations between Venezuela and Russia:
* ENERGY AND MINERALS
Russia is the world's second-biggest oil exporter and biggest gas producer. OPEC member Venezuela boasts Latin America's largest oil reserves and 7.9 percent of the world's total proven reserves, according to the BP Statistical Review of world energy.
Venezuela's state-run PDVSA and a Russian consortium that includes state giant Rosneft (ROSN.MM) and private major Lukoil (LKOH.MM) agreed in February to set up a venture to tap the Junin 6 field in Venezuela's vast Orinoco heavy crude belt.
On Wednesday, Caracas said the project would begin producing 50,000 barrels a day by the end of this year and that the Russian companies would pay Venezuela a first tranche of $600 million on Friday -- out of an agreed total of $1 billion -- for the right to take part. [ID:nN31225561]
Reserves in the Junin 6 block are estimated at 53 billion barrels, potentially making it the biggest Russian oil exploration project overseas, although Orinoco crude is extra heavy and must be processed before it can be refined.
Other Russian companies involved in the block are Gazprom (GAZP.MM), TNK-BP TNBPI.RTS and Surgutneftegaz (SNGS.MM).
Gazprombank, part of the Gazprom business empire, said in July it would finance the development of minerals and other raw materials in Venezuela with a $4 billion loan. [ID:nN2718331]
Also last year, Venezuela and Russian-Canadian miner Ruso unveiled the development of large gold reserves valued at up to $30 billion at the Las Cristinas and Brisas mines.
Chavez's government says it wants to grow the mining sector into the country's second-biggest source of income after oil.
During a regional tour that included a visit to Moscow in September, Chavez urged Turkmenistan, which has the world's fourth-largest gas reserves, to help create a global gas exporters' group opposed by Western consumers. [ID:nL7533163]
During his Moscow visit in September, Chavez recognized the independence of two pro-Russian rebel territories in Georgia -- a move the Kremlin has failed to persuade its allies to make. Hours later, President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia would supply Venezuela with all the arms it asked for. [ID:nLA719656]
Chavez wants to beef up the Venezuelan military with Russian missiles, tanks and even diesel submarines. Colombia, a U.S. ally, is particularly concerned after rising tensions between the two Andean neighbors.
Russian sources say weapons deals worth some $5 billion have been signed in the last three years, including for 100 T-72 and T-90 tanks, 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, dozens of helicopters and S-300 advanced anti-aircraft missile systems.
Chavez says he wants to resist what he calls U.S. imperialism in Latin America. Washington has expressed concern about Venezuela's weapons purchases, saying they have the potential to trigger a regional arms race. [ID:nN15715291]
* MILITARY COOPERATION
In September 2008, Russia sent two long-range Tu-160 nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela on what it said was a training mission. Also in 2008, Moscow sent the nuclear-powered battle cruiser Peter the Great, a destroyer and other vessels to the Caribbean for joint exercises with the Venezuelan navy.
In March 2009, Chavez said he told Medvedev he would let Russian planes use an airfield on one of his nation's islands, La Orchila, during their long-range flights. [ID:nN15479269]
Trade between Russia and Venezuela totaled $957.8 million in 2008, down 15 percent from a record $1.13 billion the year before, according to Russia's Economy Ministry.
Russian exports to Venezuela -- mostly aircraft -- made up the vast majority of trade in 2008 at $957.4 million. Venezuelan exports to Russia that year amounted to just $400,000. Sources: Russian Economy Ministry, BP Statistical Review, Reuters (Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Daniel Wallis; Editing by Anthony Boadle and John O'Callaghan)
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