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Chavez offers air base to Russia

Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bomber. RIA Novosti photo

CARACAS (BNS): In a bid to snub its northern neighbour, the US, Venezuela has offered Russia’s military unlimited use of an air base off its Caribbean coast. President Hugo Chavez made this announcement on television following media reports in Russia that Moscow had been offered the use of the Caribbean island base La Orchila.

Meanwhile, Russian Air Force General Anatoly Zhikharev was quoted by the Interfax-AVN military news agency, on Saturday last, as saying that Russia could seek the short-term use of bases in Cuba and Venezuela, indicating permanent bases in the region was not under consideration.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted the general as saying that there is a proposal on the part of the Venezuelan president Chavez proposing a whole island with an airfield that could be used for temporarily basing strategic bombers.

“If there is the relevant political decision, the island ... could be used by the Russian Air Force,” Zhikharev was quoted in the media.

He said that the bases could be used for logistics stops on long-distance bomber patrols, which Russia resumed in August 2007 after a 15-year hiatus.

Just as a warning to the US, Russia temporarily based a pair of Tu-160 bombers at an airbase in Venezuela last year. They arrived in Venezuela after a 13-hour flight over the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. The agency said that there were no nuclear weapons aboard the aircraft and they carried out a patrol mission over the Caribbean.

The Tu-160 Blackjack is a supersonic, variable-geometry heavy bomber, designed to strike strategic targets with nuclear and conventional weapons deep in continental theaters of operation, RIA Novosti said.

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