MOSCOW – In a showy display of camaraderie and like-minded politics, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez recognized the independence of the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on Thursday during a state visit to Russia.
Venezuela becomes the third country, after Russia and Nicaragua, to acknowledge the national aspirations of the small rebel regions inside Georgia’s internationally recognized borders.
Impoverished South Ossetia was at the heart of last summer’s war between Russia and Georgia, and Russia has been accused of carrying out a de facto annexation of the two republics.
“We recognize both republics starting from today,” Chavez said during a meeting at the residence of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
The Russian leader thanked Chavez and promptly pledged to sell tanks and other weapons to Venezuela.
“There will be tanks among the deliveries (of armaments). Why not?” Medvedev said. “We have good tanks. If our friends order them, we will deliver.”
Although details were not announced, a military source told state RIA news agency that Venezuela would buy 100 tanks for $500 million.
The rewards and platitudes flowed as Chavez met with Medvedev and Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin.
Medvedev announced plans to open a joint bank with Venezuela with $4 billion in capital to fund the country’s mutual projects. If needed, the Russian president added, the cash deposits would be increased.