MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia agreed on Friday to help build Venezuela’s first nuclear power plant and buy $1.6 billion of oil assets, reinforcing ties with President Hugo Chavez, who shares Moscow’s opposition to U.S. global dominance.
Chavez presided over the deals at a Kremlin ceremony with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who said the countries shared a “strategic partnership” and a vision of a world free of overwhelming U.S. influence.
“Both Russia and Venezuela favor the development of a modern and just world order — a world order in which our future does not depend on the will or desire of any one country, its well-being or its mood,” Medvedev said.
After the presidents’ talks, Russian nuclear agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro signed a deal on “the construction and use of an atomic power station on the territory of Venezuela.”
Russia, which recently finished Iran’s first nuclear power plant, has pushed to expand its presence on the global atomic energy market, and stresses other nations’ right to peaceful nuclear energy.
Medvedev hinted that Chavez’s foe, the United States, might not like the deal, but said it was peaceful.
“A deal in the atomic sphere has just been signed. I already know that it will make someone shudder. The president (of Venezuela) told me that there will be states that will have different types of emotions about this,” Medvedev said.
“I would like to underline that our intentions are clean and open: we want our partner the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to have a full range of energy choices, to have energy independence,” he said.
Chavez says Venezuela, South America’s biggest oil producer, needs nuclear power to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
But he has also cast its efforts as a defiance of U.S. concerns. He said on Thursday in Moscow that “nothing will stop us” from developing nuclear power.
Chavez was on his ninth visit to Russia since taking office in 1999, making Moscow the first stop on a 10-day tour that will also take him to Ukraine and Libya as well as Iran and Belarus, whose ties with the United States are badly strained.
Russia has cultivated close relations with Chavez since Vladimir Putin, now prime minister, came to power in 2000.
Leveraging its ties with Venezuela into an energy foothold in Western Europe, Russia also secured a deal for its biggest oil company, Rosneft, to buy Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA’s stake in four German refineries.
State-controlled Rosneft said it would pay $1.6 billion for a 50-percent stake in the Ruhr Oel refineries, which PDVSA owns jointly with Britain’s BP.
With a total capacity of 1.04 million barrels per day, the refineries are Venezuela’s biggest refining assets in Europe.
Under another deal signed in the Kremlin, Russia’s TNK-BP, half-owned by BP, will buy three of BP’s assets in Venezuela, one of TNK-BP’s billionaire shareholders, German Khan, told journalists.
The assets include stakes in two exploration and production joint ventures with PDVSA. BP’s Venezuelan assets are estimated to be worth $850 million to $1 billion.
There was no indication that Chavez’s visit had brought any new agreements to buy Russian weapons on top of at least $5 billion in arms deals concluded in the past five years.
Medvedev said Russia’s military cooperation with Venezuela was not slowing, but that their ties had broadened beyond the arms trade. He and Chavez signed a broad five-year plan for cooperation through 2014.
Medvedev called his meeting with Chavez “a meeting of friends” and thanked him for recognizing the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states after Moscow’s 2008 war with pro-Western Georgia.
Additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, Jessica Bachman, Lidia Kelly and Al Kueppers; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Kevin Liffey