Russia speaks up for its Venezuela trade ties

Russia said Saturday its relations with Venezuela would suffer should it lose military contracts established under the late president Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela has purchased billions of dollars in Russian arms and is also a top investment target of the Kremlin-run oil company Rosneft.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said those ties have made for especially friendly ties with Venezuela in the face of both countries' tense relations with the United States.

"Under any circumstances, long-term investments in the form of military and economic cooperation and mining and other projects strengthen relations between countries," Lavrov said in a Russian television interview to be broadcast Saturday night.

"We constantly try to make the economy be the underpinning of our relations with the rest of the world," he said, according to a transcript released early by the foreign ministry.

Lavrov stressed that the loss of these contracts "would undoubtedly tell on our relations with Venezuela."

But he added that Moscow intended to "respect" the country's future presidential election choice.

Chavez's political heir Nicolas Maduro is widely tipped to win the presidency in what are expected to be snap polls.

Russia was represented at Chavez's funeral by a trade delegation headed by Rosneft chairman Igor Sechin and Russian Technologies military exports corporation chief Sergei Chemezov as well as Trade Minister Denis Manturov.