Chavez expected to discuss arms deals in Moscow

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is set to arrive in Russia on Wednesday on a visit expected to focus on energy issues and military cooperation. Russia has forged close ties with Venezuela as part of efforts to expand its global clout and counter US influence in Latin America. Venezuela hosted Russian warships and bombers for joint maneuvers last fall, and has become a leading customer for Russian arms makers. It has purchased more than $4 billion in Russian weapons since 2005, including Sukhoi fighter jets, helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles. Russian media reports claimed that new contracts for Russian submarines and tanks may be discussed during Chavez's visit, which includes meetings with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Medvedev's spokeswoman Nataliya Timakova said no weapons deals were expected to be signed after the talks, but Kremlin foreign affairs adviser Sergei Prikhodko told reporters that Russia and Venezuela were to sign an agreement on military cooperation.