CARACAS, Saturday June 17, 2006 | Update
Venzuela received the first batch of AK-103 assault rifles
bought to Russia. Chávez delivered the new Russian weapons
to officers with the National Guard, the Aviation, the Navy
and the Army, as well Caracas Battalion, and the Presidential
Guard of Honor.
The Kalashnikov AK-130 rifles are to replace "the old light automatic rifles (FAL)", which Chávez handed over the military reserve and the territorial guard.
"Delivery of Kalashnikov rifles is the first step towards an integral plan to supply military equipment in order to increase the FAN combat and resistance capacities," Chávez said at the Defense Ministry. "We have started to change the idea of military equipment," he stressed.
"I am handing you the best rifle around the world for us to become better soldiers everyday. Motherland or death!" exclaimed Wednesday President Hugo Chávez -wearing an olive military uniform- when formally delivered to the National Armed Force (FAN) the first 30,000 Russian Kalashnikov AK-103 rifles out of 100,000.
Building of a factory
Chávez announced the building of a factory of K-103 assault rifles in Maracay, capital city of central Aragua state.
In a few days, we are going to lay the foundation stone, in Maracay, of a plant to manufacture Kalashnikov rifles. In three years, we should be producing the first rifles. At the same time, also in Maracay, we are going to build an ammunition manufacturing plant," Chávez said, accompanied by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, representatives of the public branches, his cabinet and representatives of Russian firm Rosoboronexport.
Acquisition of helicopters and planes
Further, Chávez ensured Venezuela is to purchase additional Russian helicopters, as the choppers purchased so far have been handed over to the Army. "We have agreed to a new batch of helicopters for the Aviation. These are assault helicopters, which are ideal for war of resistance," he underscored. "Another Russian contribution to Venezuela" is the installation of "a state-of-the-art helicopter maintenance center."
Combat planes from Russia are also to be bought, as part of the plan to increase the combat and resistance capacity of Venezuelan Armed Force.
Russia expects to initial soon an agreement to sell Venezuela assault planes Soukhoi Su-30, Friday said Alexei Fiodorov, president of Irkutsk Aviation Industrial Association and director of the MiG research office, AFP reported.
"The transaction for delivery of Su-30s to Venezuela is real. An agreement is expected to be initialed soon," said Fiodorov, as quoted by Interfax.
The United States expressed concern for Venezuela's intention to build a Kalashnikov factory in the country and said Washington will try to dissuade Russia from selling assault planes to Caracas, DPA reported.
"There a serious doubts about the intentions behind this initiative," Sean McCormack US State Department spokesman.
"They have bought AK-103 assault rifles from Russia. So, I am not sure why do they need a factory. They already have 100,000 of those rifles, why do they need to produce more?" he said.
Maria Daniela Espinosa
02:57 PM. HEAVY RAINS. Venezuelan Executive Vice-President Elias Jaua reported that the government is designing plans to support farmers, cattlemen and peasants of the state of Mérida who have been hit by heavy rains that have caused crop losses.