Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro showed here Tuesday that he plans to pick up where late predecessor Hugo Chavez left off in relations with Russia.

"Hugo Chavez generated a great respect and love for Russia. We have inherited that love," Maduro said during a meeting at the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We have come to confirm our desire to reinforce and expand the strategic alliance with Russia," the Venezuelan leader said.

"During the last decade we have forged a map of cooperation in various areas. We move forward on the energy front, that is, oil and gas, and in provision of equipment for the petroleum sector," Maduro said.

The new president's first visit to Moscow included the signing of an accord between Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and Russian counterpart Rosneft to carry out joint projects in the Andean nation.

Russian utility Inter RAO EES also reached an accord with PDVSA to build a power plant in Venezuela.

Putin said he and Maduro reaffirmed their "common position to pursue the course of strategic cooperation in all ambits."

The Russian also praised Maduro for "firmly taking the baton" from Chavez, who died in March after a long battle with cancer, and praised the late Venezuelan head of state as "a great and sincere friend of Russia, a strong and valiant man."

Maduro took time during his visit to attend a ceremony in northwest Moscow to mark the re-naming of a street in Chavez's honor.

Chavez, who traveled to Russia on nine occasions, sought to institutionalize bilateral economic cooperation and bought billions of dollars worth of arms and military equipment from Moscow.

Venezuela turned to Russia after the United States cut off sales of military materiel to Caracas, including spare parts for the F-16s combat planes Washington sold the Andean nation in the 1980s. EFE