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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Energy Accords and a Medal for Angola

APPresident Putin presenting President dos Santos with the Russian Order of Friendship in the Kremlin on Tuesday.
Gazprom, LUKoil and Alrosa signed agreements with Angolan companies Tuesday, while President Vladimir Putin spoke of closer economic ties and gave a medal to Angola's president.

"We are aware of Angola's very rich economic potential," Putin said at the start of his talks with Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in an ornate Kremlin hall. "I'm convinced your visit to Moscow will give a strong new impulse to the development of our cooperation."

Later in the day, Gazprom and Angola's state oil company, Sonangol, agreed to invest as much as $100 million for oil and gas exploration in Angola, Gazprom deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev said. The companies signed a memorandum of cooperation.

LUKoil and Sonangol signed a memorandum of understanding on joint exploration of the South Congo, North Kwanza, Kasane and Etosha deposits off the coast of Angola.

Alrosa, the state diamond monopoly, signed agreements on cooperation in the diamond and energy industries with Angolan partners.

Alrosa already owns stock in two major diamond fields in Angola, which is the world's sixth-largest diamond producer. Alrosa earlier had announced plans to explore oil fields in Angola in partnership with state oil company Zarubezhneft.

Alrosa has grown into Angola's biggest foreign investor in the diamond sector, stepping in after relations between De Beers and Angola's state diamond company, Endiama, cooled over losses stemming from the country's renewed civil war.

Alrosa now accounts for some 60 percent of Angola's diamond production, compared to around 30 percent for De Beers.

Angola currently produces almost $1 billion worth of diamonds annually and aims to double production over the next year.

"We didn't come here to seek help," dos Santos told Putin on Tuesday. "Angola has great economic potential and can offer something in exchange for cooperation. We want to cooperate on the basis of equality and want a partnership beneficial for both sides."

The Soviet Union backed dos Santos' party, the Marxist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA, providing it with aircraft, tanks and other weapons in its prolonged civil war against the UNITA rebels.

"We know and remember the close ties which we had in the past," Putin told dos Santos, who has ruled his nation since 1979.

After the talks, Putin presented dos Santos with the Russian Order of Friendship.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the MPLA dropped its Marxist policies and looked for support elsewhere. The southwest African nation's two-decade civil war ended in 2002 when the army killed UNITA rebel leader Jonas Savimbi.

Angola is sub-Saharan Africa's second-largest oil producer after Nigeria, with most of its oil pumped from offshore rigs operated by foreign companies. Its output is projected to surpass 2 million barrels per day next year.

Russian and Angolan officials on Tuesday also signed agreements on military-technical cooperation, legal assistance and joint efforts in combating drugs.

"We have talked about widening our commercial and economic relations -- in the diamond extraction sector, energy, mining, oil and gas, transport and communications," Putin said.