Interview of Sergey Lavrov Russian Foreign Minister for the «Saturday News with Sergei Brilev» on TV channel «Russia 1″, Moscow, March 9, 2013

Question: Taken into account the events in Venezuela, I was reminded of the scene when Hugo Chavez gathered all the presidents of Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America and introduced them to the President of Russia. Will the death of Hugo Chavez have a negative impact on the relationship with this community rather than on the Russia-Venezuela interaction?

S.V.Lavrov: First of all, we need to attend to the fate of Venezuela and support Venezuelan people during this difficult time. According to our estimations (and this is confirmed by the recent buyout polls in Venezuela), the majority of the population — more that 60 percent — favours the continuation of the policy initiated by Hugo Chavez. Now there is an elaboration of new legal issues that will determine how things in the political process will develop in the framework of constitution and the decisions taken by the Constitutional Court. Of course, we wish the Venezuelan people to make the choice that meets their aspirations and interests of strengthening our strategic partnership.

We presume that in Latin America, the Chavez policy has been widely supported. It is evidenced from the list of foreign leaders, heads of states of Latin America, who were present at the funeral of Hugo Chavez on March 8. Grieving the loss incurred by the Venezuelan people and friends of the country, including the Russian Federation, we have to look forward. Hopefully, the legacy created by Chavez, will only help to deepen our partnership.

Question: Correct me if I am mistaken, but in the case of theoretical change of the ideology of the supreme power in Venezuela but the Russian military equipment situated there requires decades of service. So in that sense, Russia’s interests are protected in any case.

S.V.Lavrov: In all circumstances, long-term investments in the form of military and technical cooperation and economic, mining, energy and other projects strengthen relations between states. This is true not only in the case of the Russian-Venezuelan partnership, but also with regard to any other country. Look at the U.S. and China — the largest trading partners with mutual turnover of hundreds of billions of dollars. This economic «safety cushion» makes it easier to deal with complex political issues regarding which Washington and Beijing do not always think alike. We constantly work to ensure that the economy is in the heart of our relationship with the world.

I did not mention the United States occasionally. Russian President, Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with Barack Obama, the President of the U.S. in June 2012 in Los Cabos, «in the fields» of the summit of the «twenty», that the first priority shall be deepening of economic, trade and investment cooperation. Of course, to some extent, it will have an impact on our relations with Venezuela. But, again, we will respect the choice of the Venezuelan people and hope that it will be supported by all who build relations with Venezuela, and that they will not attempt to influence this choice.

Question: When I was going to the first meeting with Chavez, I told those who knew him, that I would probably have to meet the «volcanic» man. But the answer was that a surprise would be waiting for me. Indeed, when I met him, I saw a «human calculator» – that is surprisingly cold-blooded, absolutely different from a person visiting the meetings and appearing on the stands. Amazing man, a historical figure, this is no one like him. Do you feel that the stability of the Venezuelan political system on the background of rumours of infighting — is an indisputable fact?

S.V.Lavrov: I would like to agree with you. I had a similar impression of Hugo Chavez, after having met him personally for several times, including in Caracas. Quiet, thoughtful, very subtle politician and a man of fine fibre, deeply erudite, knowing not only Latin, but also Russian poetry. I really believe that he was a historical figure.

As for the political struggle, then, perhaps, as in any situation before any election, the political forces will promote their programs and priorities to persuade voters. I paid attention to the fact that among the many condolences, sounding in Venezuela and abroad, Chavez’s opponent in the last election E.Kapriles did, I think, a very correct statement, saying that he was mourning of this loss, and stressing the fact that he has never been an enemy of Chavez, but only a contender. In my opinion, it is respectful attitude to what happens now. I hope that the political process and the election campaign will be held in the same vein.

Question: Chavez created the Bolivarian Alliance for the peoples of our America ​​, where in addition to Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba and small states such as Antigua and Barbuda are involved. It is important that with so many of these states, Russia had a special relationship during the rule of Hugo Chavez. There has been a breakthrough in trade and economic relations with Nicaragua, also in the revival of relations with Cuba. Much of this was based on the fact that Chavez supplied them with oil at a discount price, while due to thisa revival of the economy took place in those countries, and the opportunities for Russia have been expanded. Are you certain that the next generation of Venezuelan leaders (whether of the left or right) will continue this policy in relation to their neighbours, which is important for our country?

S.V.Lavrov: I cannot judge what the future direction of the line of Venezuela in relation to its neighbours, members of the group, called ALBA will be. But what happened in recent years in terms of our approach to these countries — we have significantly stepped up in relations with almost all Latin American and Caribbean States — reflects, to some extent, and that was actively promoted Chavez. But, on the other hand, Russia has a greater interest in the region. Moreover, not only in political terms, as the leaders of the majority of Latin America, especially in the context of formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) — takes very similar positions to ours on international issues. There have been waken up and stepped up as a common political so economic interests. Russian economic operators have already been curious enough to look at remote regions, especially in Latin America, where there are many interesting things in terms of investment. It also applies to small states. At the beginning of this week I met (as I do it once a year) with the ambassadors of all the Latin American and Caribbean States. I can assure you, in terms of their own experience — and the ambassadors, most probably, reflect the line pursued by their state — such interest did not wane, but rather deepened.

Question: Maybe I express myself rather abrasive now, but Chavez died, but in the good sense momentum in the relations development is maintained?

S.V.Lavrov: I am convinced. It is confirmed also by the reaction of the Venezuelan people and the Latin American leaders to what is happening.