Russian Warships Hold Military Exercises with Chavez's Navy

Russian warships have held training exercises with Venezuela's navy in Moscow's first such Caribbean deployment since the Cold War.

Russian television on Tuesday showed images of a Venezuelan-operated Sukhoi fighter jet swooping low over Soviet warships in a simulated air attack.

The exercises that started Monday included an air defense exercise and joint actions to spot, pursue and detain an intruding vessel, said Russian navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo.

The Russian ships arrived in Venezuela last week in an operation widely seen as a show of Kremlin anger over the U.S. decision to deliver aid to Georgia aboard warships following that country's conflict with Russia.

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President Hugo Chavez has said the Russian ships aren't meant as a provocation to the United States or any other nation. He has praised Russia for raising its profile in the Americas, while saying the U.S. Navy's recently reactivated Fourth Fleet poses a threat to Venezuela.

U.S. officials says the Fourth Fleet, which was dissolved after World War II, will help maintain security in the Caribbean and Latin America while performing humanitarian missions and counter-drug operations.

This week's joint Venezuelan-Russian exercises featured helicopters dropping special forces soldiers onto a ship as if it had been "seized by terrorists," according to a report on Rossiya television.

The Russian naval squadron includes the nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great, the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and two support vessels.

Venezuela has said 11 of its ships would be involved in three days of training dubbed "Venrus 2008." Venezuelan state media, however, did not immediately carry images of the maneuvers.

Venezuela also has carried out military training missions with Brazil, the Netherlands and other nations.