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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chavez Praises Putin for Trying to Stop Coup

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has hailed what he called a "strategic" alliance with Vladimir Putin, saying the Russian leader tried to prevent a 2002 coup that briefly ousted him.

"We've found in Russia a real strategic ally, like in China and many other countries, too," Chavez said Wednesday, adding that he would try to make room in his agenda to accept an invitation from Putin to visit Moscow.

Chavez, who accuses the U.S. government of backing the 2002 coup against him, said Putin had tried to help him at the time.

"I remember the efforts by Vladimir before the coup of 2002 because they knew many things," Chavez said. "He tried to prevent it but it was inevitable -- the empire had already decided to overthrow the [Chavez] government."

Chavez's government has fostered closer ties with Moscow particularly through military deals worth an estimated $3 billion. Venezuela is buying Kalashnikov rifles, Sukhoi fighter jets, M-17 helicopters and other arms from Russia.

Chavez also weighed in on a dispute between Washington and Moscow over U.S. plans for a missile defense shield in Europe that would include the Czech Republic and Poland, and praised Putin for opposing it. "In Russia there is a leader of courage speaking clearly for the good of humanity," Chavez said.