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Chavez, Medvedev agree to construct nuclear plant

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, left, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev  hold up signed documents.  (Associated Press)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, left, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hold up signed documents. (Associated Press)

Some experts skeptical agreement will pay off

MOSCOW – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday announced a deal calling for Russia to build the Latin American country’s first nuclear power plant, with both leaders emphasizing the plan involves purely peaceful energy uses.

Medvedev and Chavez, who was on his ninth visit to Russia in eight years, oversaw the signing by their ministers of an agreement for the nuclear power plant as well as agreements for Russia to invest $1.6 billion in Venezuela’s oil industry.

“I don’t know who will shudder now,” Medvedev said at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow. “President (Chavez) said that there will be states which will have different emotions but I would like to specifically note that our intentions are absolutely pure and open.”

Chavez, a socialist leader and staunch critic of U.S. foreign policies, praised the agreements with Russia and extended special thanks to former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was not present, and Medvedev, referring to them as “sons of the Soviet Union.” Venezuela wants to reduce its reliance on gas and oil energy, Chavez said.

Medvedev didn’t specify how much the nuclear project will cost or when it will start.

During the comments by the two leaders, Medvedev made what observers considered a veiled reference to the United States.

“Both Russia and Venezuela come out for forming a modern and fair world order, such a world order in which our future doesn’t depend on the will and desire of some other country, on its prosperity and mood,” Medvedev said.

Some experts in Moscow were skeptical about how beneficial the Russia-Venezuela relationship might be.

Andrei Piontkovsky, a senior fellow with the Russian Academy of Sciences System Analysis Institute, said the relationship between Russia and Venezuela “can realistically have no economic content whatsoever” and seemed based more on the spiritual closeness of its leaders.

“In terms of foreign policy Medvedev is little different from Putin,” he said. “In Russia the imperial complexes and anti-Western moods still prevail over common sense.”