MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia expects to sell at least three submarines to Venezuela in a deal to be inked when President Hugo Chavez visits next month, Russian news media reported Friday.
The Interfax news agency and the daily Kommersant cited unnamed military-industrial officials as saying that the subs would be diesel-electric models, of the ''Varshavyanka'' class.
''As of today, work to prepare the contract has practically been completed. The contract's signing will likely be timed with the visit of ... Chavez to Moscow, which is expected in May,'' the official was quoted as saying by Interfax.
A spokesman for state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport had no comment; no one answered the phones at the Venezuelan Embassy in Moscow.
The daily Kommersant, meanwhile, said Venezuela was seeking four submarines in all at a cost of US$1 billion (euro640 million). The newspaper also quoted Deputy Finance Minister Dmitry Pankin as confirming talks on a US$800 million (euro515 million) loan from Russia for the purchase were also under way.
The paper said the deal would be signed when Chavez travels to Moscow for the inauguration of incoming president Dmitry Medvedev.
During a visit to Russia last year, Chavez said that his country needs submarines to protect itself against its enemies -- foremost among them the United States.
At that time, a top Rosoboronexport official said discussions centered on as many as five so-called ''Project 636'' Varshavyanka submarines.
The ships, known in NATO terms as Kilo-class, are Russia's most advanced non-nuclear submarine. China, India and Iran, among others, have all purchased the subs in recent years.
Caracas already has purchased some US$3 billion (euro2.25 billion) worth of arms from Russia, including military helicopters, Kalashnikov rifles and Sukhoi fighter jets.
Kommersant said Venezuela was also negotiating to buy 12 Il-76 military transport aircraft.