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Russia, Venezuela may sign $1.4 bln contract for three subs in April

MOSCOW, February 5 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Venezuela are at the final stage of talks on a deal to sell three Kilo-Class Project 636 submarines to Venezuela's Navy, which could be clinched in April, Vedomosti business daily said Tuesday.

The Project 636 submarine is designed for anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface-ship warfare, and also for general reconnaissance and patrol missions. It is considered to be one of the quietest diesel submarines in the world.

The paper quoted a Russian government agency official as saying that the $1.4 bln contract was agreed in principle last December and could be signed during President Hugo Chavez's visit to Russia in April, while delivery could start before the end of the year.

It said the Venezuelans originally planned to buy state-of-the-art Amur submarines, but Russia persuaded them to opt for an older project, saying that some of the Amur's systems were still being tested.

Dmitry Vasilyev, an expert with the Moscow based Center for Strategic and Technological Studies, said Russia may have agreed to install powerful anti-submarine Club missiles to compensate for its refusal to sell Caracas the Amur submarines.

The official said it was unclear which shipyard would get the contract.

The Russian Kilo Class submarine, designed by the St. Petersburg-based Rubin Central Design Bureau, entered service in the early 1980s.

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