MOSCOW — President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday called new arms and energy deals between Russia and Ecuador just a beginning as Moscow strives to deepen ties in Latin America.
Medvedev and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa announced a $22 million deal for Russia to provide Ecuador with two Mi-17 transport helicopters.
"It's not much, but it's the beginning of cooperation," Medvedev said. "There are prospects for our nations."
They also presided over of the signing of agreements on Russia's assistance in the construction of two hydropower stations and development of Ecuador's substantial oil and gas reserves.
Correa, the first Ecuadorean president to make an official visit to Russia, called his trip "historic."
The Kremlin has recently sought to renew Communist-era ties with Latin America in what is widely seen as a response to U.S. support to ex-Soviet Georgia and Ukraine. The flurry of activity intensified after last year's war between Russia and Georgia over breakaway South Ossetia.
Nicaragua and Venezuela are the only nations that have followed Moscow in recognizing South Ossetia and another Russian-backed separatist province, Abkhazia, as independent countries. The Kremlin subsequently signed lucrative arms and energy deals with Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Russian daily Kommersant reported Thursday that Ecuador has showed interest in buying Russian jets, bombers and missile systems.
Last year, Moscow dispatched a pair of strategic bombers to Venezuela and a squadron of warships to Venezuela, Panama and Cuba, the biggest projection of Russian military power to the Western Hemisphere since the Cold War.
Ecuador is Russia's third largest trade partner in Latin America — after Brazil and Argentina — with the 2008 turnover of $936 million. Almost 90 per cent of bananas and some 60 per cent of roses sold in Russia come from Ecuador.