MOSCOW, March 8 (RIA Novosti) - Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro has assured Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone that strategic partnership between the two countries would continue following the death of Hugo Chavez, the Kremlin reported Friday.
President Chavez died in Venezuela on Tuesday night after battling cancer for two years. He was 58.
The Kremlin said in a statement on its website that in the phone conversation with Maduro on Thursday, Putin expressed his condolences to the vice president and said he hoped relations of friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation between Russia and Venezuela would keep developing.
Ties between Russia and Venezuela flourished under Chavez, whose 14-year rule earned Moscow a number of lucrative arms and energy deals and a close ally in South America.
As the Russian president was speaking to reporters during a visit to the northwestern Russian city of Vologda, he praised Chavez’s legacy, calling him a bright leader with a strong political will who always prioritized the interests of the Venezuelan people.
“We have established a good-natured, warm, friendly relationship, which, undoubtedly, helped to build relations between our countries,” Putin said. “Hugo Chavez was a dear friend of Russia.”
Chavez named Maduro as his potential successor before undergoing the latest surgery in December.
Venezuela will hold new presidential elections in early April. Maduro has assumed the presidency in the interim period.
Updates third graf with clarification when Putin expressed condolences to Maduro.