Russian ambassador in Bolivia Leonid Golubev said Moscow would help Bolivia modernize its arms and military equipment, following on the credit agreement reached last February between presidents Diimitri Medvedev and Evo Morales.
“All that the Bolivian government requests from us, we are prepared to provide. We can say that the Bolivian army will be modernized and to a similar level to those of surrounding countries”, said Golubev, quoted in La Paz main daily, La Razon
“What we are waiting is for the formal request from Bolivia to implement the credit”, which according to sources from both governments in its first phase is close to 150 million US dollars. Morales and Medvedev signed a military cooperation agreement last February which according to Russia’s official news agency Interfax would begin with the purchase of Mi-17 military helicopters both for combat and transport to help fight terrorism and the drug trade.
Rosoboronexport, the official Russian arms export organization said that a first batch of 20 helicopters would begin to be supplied following a visit to Moscow earlier this month of Bolivian Deputy Foreign Affairs minister Hugo Fernandez.
Golubev said the shopping list also includes arms and equipments for the Bolivian Army but did not reveal details of the operation.
Bolivian Defence minister Walker San Miguel said that the agreement with Russia, “is generic, with priorities analyzed specifically, such as logistics and military hardware since Bolivian Armed Forces have been left aside of budget considerations for the last ten years at least”.
The Rosoboronexport group which acts as the provider of Russian military hardware last year had sales of 20.4 billion US dollars according to a report in the Moscow newspaper Vedomosti.
This is the first time since 2006 that arms sales volume and value transcend in the Moscow press. Apparently this year sales continue to improve and are expected to reach anywhere between 26.5 and 27.5 billion US dollars.
One of the main contracts in 2008 was with India for the upgrading and refurbishing of the MIG-29 Air Force fighter bombers and the purchase of 80 Mi-17 helicopters.