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New Arms Contracts With Venezuela Unlikely At Present - Russian Official

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The signing of new contracts on the supply of Russian weaponry to Venezuela is unlikely at this point due to the crisis in the Latin American country, Anatoly Punchuk, deputy director of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), said in an interview with Sputnik.

According to Punchuk, the signing of new contracts on the supply of Russian weaponry to Venezuela is unlikely at this point due to the crisis in the Latin American country.

"We currently see our task in maintaining the equipment we supplied earlier. Taking into account the crisis the country is experiencing, the signing of new contracts on the supply of ready-to-use weapons and military equipment is unlikely at present", he said ahead of the opening of the international defence technology exhibition SITDEF Peru 2019, that would open on Thursday.

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According to the Russian official, Venezuela is currently one of the largest operators of Russian-made military equipment in Latin America, and the Venezuelan Armed Forces are equipped with the most modern Russian weaponry, including aircraft, helicopters, air defence systems, and armoured vehicles.

"I will not hide the fact that the sanctions imposed by the United States and Western European countries on Venezuela and Russian companies exporting military products have a negative impact on the development of military-technical cooperation between our countries. The United States is trying to use the blockade of the country to hamper the delivery of spare parts and units, which is a form of unfair competition on the arms market", Punchuk stressed.

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At the same time, he said that the construction of a plant to manufacture Kalashnikov assault rifles in Venezuela is proceeding on schedule, despite the blockade, organised by Washington having had a negative impact on the pace of its installation.

According to previous reports, the completion of the plant is expected in 2019.

US Pressure on Arms Sales

FSMTC's deputy chief also noted that the sanctions applied by the United States and several European countries are one of the reasons for Russia's small order portfolio in the region.

"The general value of the market for military purpose products in Latin America is rather significant and is estimated at between $40 and $50 billion. At the moment, the order portfolio of Russian enterprises is small and amounts to about several percent. This is due to the cyclical acquisition of equipment by countries in the region, limited budget financing as well as political pressure and sanctions by the US and several European countries", the Russian official explained.

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Punchuk noted Latin American countries were important defence industry cooperation partners of Russia.

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"A significant amount of weapons and military equipment, with which the national armies and security forces are equipped, was supplied in the course of interaction. This is due to the adaptability of our technology to the climate of the Latin American region", he stressed.

Russian Aircraft Purchases

Punchuk also told Sputnik that Argentina is interested in receiving additional batches of Mi-series helicopters from Russia, and Moscow hopes to conclude agreements for their purchase.

"Our partners are interested in purchasing additional batches of Mi-series helicopters. We expect to convert the existing efforts in this segment into real agreements. Today, we and representatives of the foreign customer are focused on establishing a high-quality system of after-sales service of helicopters", he noted.

According to him, Argentinian pilots also had an opportunity to learn about the MiG-29 fighter jet's capabilities during a familiarisation flight.

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"According to reviews, they were pleased with our machines. It is obvious that the solution to the issue of equipping the national air forces with foreign-made aircraft lies in the political sphere, and it's still premature to talk about the number of vehicles that we can deliver", the Russian official stated.

Punchuk also noted that Peru had expressed interest in purchasing an additional batch of MiG-29 aircraft from Moscow.

"The Peruvian Air Force already has MiG-29 jets today, and this equipment is actively used. The Peruvian military is interested in purchasing an additional batch of this type of plane. This is a priority issue on the agenda of Russian-Peruvian military-technical cooperation. Negotiations on this subject are ongoing", he said.

In 2017, FSMTC's deputy chief said that Russia had prepared a response to Argentina's commercial offer on the purchase of over 15 MiG-29 fighter jets.

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