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CIS: Russian warship to cross Panama Canal

04 Dec 2008 2:31 AM

MOSCOW, Dec 3 AP - The Russian navy said Wednesday one of its warships would sail this week through Panama Canal - a symbolic projection of Moscow's power to the U.S. zone of influence.

It will be the first time since World War II that a Soviet or Russian military vessel crosses the canal, Russian navy spokesman Captain Igor Dygalo said.

The destroyer Admiral Chabanenko will arrive on Friday at the Rodman naval base in Panama's port of Balboa for a six-day visit after carrying out joint manoeuvres with the Venezuelan navy, Dygalo said in a telephone interview.

The Panama Canal has long been a symbol of US influence in Latin America. Rodman was once the hub for all US naval activities in South America and supported fleet units transiting the 80km canal.

The joint manoeuvres with Venezuela this week were widely seen as a show of Kremlin anger over the US use of warships to deliver aid to Georgia after its war with Russia in August.

The Russian squadron's voyage to Venezuela was Russia's first such deployment to the Western Hemisphere since the Cold War era, aimed to showcase the Kremlin's global reach and reassert its claim to great-power status.

The nuclear-powered missile cruiser Peter the Great led the Russian squadron, which also includes the Admiral Chabanenko and two support ships.