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VOLOGDA, March 7 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed hope on Thursday that Moscow and Caracas will continue developing friendly bilateral relations after the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who was considered a close ally of Russia.
Chavez died in Venezuela on Tuesday night after battling cancer for two years. He was 58.
“As for our future relations with Venezuela, they will depend primarily on the Venezuelan people, the future president and the country’s leadership,” Putin told reporters during a visit to the Russian city of Vologda.
“We are counting on continuity [in Russian-Venezuelan relations]” Putin said.
Ties between Russia and Venezuela flourished under Chavez, whose 14-year rule earned Moscow a number of lucrative arms and energy deals and a close ally in South America.
The Russian president again praised Chavez’s legacy, calling him a bright leader with a strong political will who always prioritized the interests of the Venezuelan people.
“We have established a good-natured, warm, friendly relationship, which, undoubtedly, helped to build relations between our countries,” Putin said. “Hugo Chavez was a dear friend of Russia.”
Chavez, who was known as the most vocal adversary of the United States in Latin America, won a new six-year term in an election in October, and his inauguration was slated for January 11, but he was unable to attend due to health reasons.
Chavez named Vice President Nicolas Maduro as his potential successor before undergoing the latest surgery in December.
Venezuela will hold new presidential elections in early April. Maduro has assumed the presidency in the interim period.
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The main event of the third day of the 11th meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi was the closing session with President Vladimir Putin. The atmosphere was calm and open, despite the current political tensions and the Russia-West confrontation. The Russian president said that it corresponded to the spirit of the Valdai Club.