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Hugo Chávez deepens petroleum and military ties with Russia

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"Thank you, Hugo," responded Mr. Medvedev. "Russia has always supported a country's sovereign right to recognize or not recognize a state's independence. But of course we are not indifferent to the fate of these two states. We are very grateful," he added.

Russian experts say Chávez gesture may have cost him little, but it was just what the Kremlin wanted to hear.

"Venezuela is an important South American state, and for it to take this step matters a lot to us, because it shows that we are not alone," says Andrei Klimov, deputy chair of the Russian State Duma's foreign affairs committee. "It's yet another signal that our strategic partnership with Venezuela is growing. For us, this is a new part of the world where we can do business and find cooperative relationships. It's not directed against the US or anyone else."

As he usually does on these visits, Chávez gave a speech filled with inflammatory political rhetoric, this time to students at Patrice Lumumba, a Moscow university attended largely by students from Third World countries.

Amid cheers and applause, he told the students that the days of a "unipolar world" dominated by Washington are numbered. "The US wants to own the entire world, but the Yankee empire is falling," he said. And he praised his Russian hosts, Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, saying "I believe Putin and Medvedev will leave behind a great legacy not only for Russia but for the entire world."

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