Chavez congratulates Putin on 'great victory'
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez congratulated Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on his party's "great victory" in last week's legislative elections, the government said Friday.
The elections, which saw Putin's ruling majority sharply reduced, has triggered opposition protests alleging fraud, and concern from the United States, Germany, France and the European Union.
The Venezuelan foreign ministry said Chavez spoke to Putin by telephone on Thursday about the vote in a conversation centered on an upcoming bilateral meeting at which oil and other agreements are expected to be signed.
Chavez "congratulated the Russian prime minister for the great victory of his party," which he said "has opened the way for (Putin's) victory in the presidential elections" in March, according to the foreign ministry.
An observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Monday in Moscow that there had been "frequent" irregularities and "serious indications of ballot box stuffing."
The Russian opposition has held demonstrations across the country to challenge United Russia's victory.
© 2011 AFP