Chavez hails Putin's 'great victory'
Caracas - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has hailed the "great victory" of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's party in disputed elections that have sparked mass protests and widespread accusations of fraud.
Chavez "praised the Russian premier on the great victory of his party" in Sunday's elections and "envisions the upcoming presidential victory" in elections to be held in March, according to a foreign ministry statement.
Putin aims to win the upcoming election and return to the presidency, a post his ally Dmitry Medvedev has held since May 2008.
Around 1 600 people have been arrested in three days of protests in Moscow and Saint Petersburg alleging widespread fraud in the parliamentary polls, which saw Putin's United Russia win with a reduced majority.
Organisers have vowed to stage a mass demonstration in Moscow at the weekend, prompting Medvedev to appeal for calm.
Chavez praised the election results during a telephone conversation with Putin that took place alongside high-level meetings between representatives of the two countries in Moscow on Thursday.
Moscow and Caracas signed agreements concerning energy, petroleum and military co-operation, according to a Venezuelan government statement, which did not provide further details.
Russian state-run oil giant Rosneft said on Thursday it would pay $2.6bn to tap into Venezuela's oil reserves in the Orinoco Belt.
Rosneft and Venezuelan state company PDVSA signed a memorandum of understanding in Moscow creating a joint venture to exploit two fields in a project they call Carabobo-2, for an estimated 40 billion barrels of oil.