MOSCOW: Russia and Venezuela are expected to sign a contract on the delivery of at least 100 main battle tanks worth about $500 million to the Latin American country, a Russian defense industry source said on Wednesday.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is expected to arrive in Moscow on Wednesday for a two-day visit as part of his 11-day foreign tour and will hold talks with the Russian leadership.
“During the visit, the sides are expected to sign a contract on the delivery of T-72 and T-90 tanks to Venezuela,” the source said.
Moscow and Caracas could also discuss future deliveries of Russian-made infantry fighting vehicles, the source added.
According to military experts, the T-72 main battle tanks will comprise the bulk of the deliveries because this tank is cheaper than the T-90 and better fits the demands of the Latin American market.
The price of a T-90 main battle tank, manufactured by Russia’s Uralvagonzavod plant is $5-7 million, while the price of a T-72 model is $1-2 million.
Last year, Uralvagonzavod produced a total of 165 T-90 tanks. Over half of the vehicles were exported, and the remaining tanks replaced some of the T-72s in the Russian Armed Forces; therefore, Russia may have enough T-72 tanks available for the sale to Venezuela.
The Venezuelan Army currently has more than 80 outdated French-made AMX-30 main battle tanks and several dozen AMX-13C light tanks.
Chavez, who has spent billions of dollars on weapons from Russia in recent years, earlier confirmed that Caracas and Moscow were discussing purchases of Russian T-72 and T-90 main battle tanks among other military equipment.
The Venezuelan president has said the country plans to buy weaponry from Russia over a possible increase in U.S. military personnel in neighboring Colombia.
Between 2005 and 2007 Russia signed 12 contracts worth more than $4.4 billion to supply arms to Venezuela, including fighter jets, helicopters and Kalashnikov assault rifles.