Venezuela's Chavez thanks Russia for tanks
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday thanked Russia for its sale of 25 tanks and other arms to the South American country, saying they were needed for "defending our sovereignty."
"I want to thank (Russian) President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister (Vladimir) Putin for these weapons manufactured in the Russian Federation, in sister Russia," Chavez said in a message broadcast by state TV.
"These arms from Russia, now in Venezuela, will be for defending our sovereignty. Thanks to Russia. A round of applause for Russia," he added, to applause, speaking at a military ceremony to receive the arms.
The Venezuelan military received 25 tanks and hundreds of other weapons, according to generals present at the ceremony.
Between 2005 and 2007 Venezuela reached deals to buy $4 billion worth of arms from Russia, including Sukhoi fighter jets, combat helicopters and guns.
The Chavez government also secured a $2.2 billion loan in 2010 to purchase Russian T-72 tanks and an undisclosed number of S-300 antiaircraft missiles.
Chavez, a leftist firebrand who often rails against the "imperialist" United States, said Venezuela needed to guard its vast oil and mineral wealth.
"We do not seek war with anyone, but we have to defend our country," he said.
© 2011 AFP