Russian warships have sailed into port in Venezuela for a series of joint military exercises that mark Russia's first deployment in the Caribbean since the Cold War.
The vessels, including the nuclear-powered cruiser, Peter the Great
, and the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko
, arrived at the port of La Guaira, near Caracas, Tuesday for the pending maneuvers.
The ships sailed into port ahead of Wednesday's arrival by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, who meets this week with his host, President Hugo Chavez. Mr. Medvedev's visit will mark the first trip to the oil-exporting South American nation by a Russian president.
The U.S. State Department Monday said the United States will keep a close eye on the military exercises, but it dismissed the notion that they represent a challenge to U.S. influence in the region.
President Chavez expressed the same idea Monday, saying the exercises are not a provocation.
Mr. Chavez is an outspoken critic of the U.S. government and has been seeking closer relations with Moscow.
The deepening ties between Moscow and Caracas - including recent visits by Mr. Chavez to the Russian capital - follow a rift between Moscow and Washington over Russia's conflict with its neighbor Georgia in August.
Mr. Medvedev is visiting Venezuela as part of a Latin American tour that includes Brazil and Cuba. The Kremlin leader met this past week with U.S. President George Bush at a summit of Pacific Rim countries in Lima, Peru.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.