Russia denies nuclear weapons on ships bound for Venezuela

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Moscow, Oct 9 (UNI) Russia today denied reports that warships en route to Venezuela to take part in naval exercises are carrying nuclear weapons.

"There are no tactical nuclear weapons on board these ships," official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Andrei Nesterenko said at a press conference.

Mr Nesterenko said the presence of nuclear-powered Pyotr Veliky missile cruiser in Latin American and Caribbean waters would not violate the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday following talks with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro in Moscow that weapons sold to the Latin American state were only to improve its defence capability.

''Military-technical cooperation between Russia and Venezuela is transparent and performed in accordance with international norms,'' Mr Lavrov said, adding, ''It is conducted to complete one task-strengthening of the defence capability of Venezuela.'' In September, Russia agreed to provide Venezuela with a one billion dollars loan so that Caracas could buy TOR-M1 air defence systems, Igla-S portable SAM systems, Il-78 aerial tankers and Il-76 military cargo aircraft.

Between 2005 and 2007 Russia signed 12 contracts worth more than 4.4 billion dollars to supply arms to Venezuela, including fighter jets, helicopters and Kalashnikov assault rifles.

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