Moscow Sends Oil Boss Sechin as Envoy to Chavez Funeral

NOVOSIBIRSK, March 6 (RIA Novosti) – Igor Sechin, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative and former deputy prime minister, will head the Russian delegation at Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s funeral, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday amid concerns about the future of bilateral business ties.

Sechin, president of the Rosneft oil company and chairman of the board at the Rosneftegaz company, is a man who has been closely involved in bilateral Russian-Venezuelan relations, Peskov said.

Hugo Chavez was the architect of the “multidimensional” relationship between Russia and Venezuela while Sechin was “a proactive initiator of energy, banking and other projects,” Peskov said.

The Russian delegation will also include Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov and Russian Technologies (Rostekhnologii) state corporation general director Sergei Chemezov.

Ties between Russia and Venezuela flourished under Chavez, whose 14-year-rule brought Moscow a number of lucrative arms and energy deals and a close ally in South America. Manturov said the change of leadership in Venezuela should not affect ongoing Russian-Venezuelan contracts and agreements.

“We have signed contracts with the state, therefore there are federal obligations on the part of our Venezuelan partners. I have no such concerns,” he said.

Russian companies are involved in five major oil projects in Venezuela. The largest is the development of the Junin-6 block in the Orinoco oil belt with a total estimated investment volume of $20 billion. Venezuela is also one of Russia’s leading partners in the defense and technology sector.

Moscow hopes to preserve “constructive, warm relations” with Venezuela, Manturov said.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Chavez was Russia’s friend, adding that all matters of future cooperation should only be addressed after the last respects have been paid to him.

“After that we will start thinking of how not only to preserve but expand on all the agreements achieved under Hugo Chavez, with our traditional partner in Latin America.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Moscow is confident that Chavez’s policies will continue.

“We have no doubts that Hugo Chavez’s noble cause is in reliable hands. We are confident that the focused work to create a strong, independent and prosperous Venezuela will continue,” Lukashevich said.

Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, who is also president of the state-owned oil and natural gas company PDVSA, said Venezuela will continue Chavez’s policy toward the oil industry, aimed at achieving sovereignty and national control over the sector.

“We will not go against Chavez’s outstanding legacy, such as the president’s oil policy,” he said.

Venezuela is the largest oil exporter in South America, and is among the four largest oil suppliers to the United States and has been steadily increasing oil supplies to China. In 2011, OPEC stated Venezuela overtook Saudi Arabia in its volume of oil reserves.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin conveyed his condolences to the Venezuelan people in a telegram to the Venezuelan vice president.

“He was an unorthodox and strong person, who looked to the future and always set himself the highest standards,” Putin said in a Kremlin message of condolence after Chavez’s death on Tuesday, following a prolonged battle with cancer.

Putin added he was confident the Venezuelan people would be able to overcome what he called the “test” presented by Chavez’s death and continue to build a “strong, independent and prosperous” nation.


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