6 Dec 2008

Historic passage for Russian warship

9:54 pm on 6 December 2008

A Russian warship has entered the Panama Canal for the first time since World War II.

The Admiral Chabanenko had earlier completed manoeuvres with Venezuela's navy, coinciding with a Latin American tour by the Russian president.

The 80km canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans was shut to the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Panama says the passage of the ship had no political significance, as the canal is "open to all the world's ships".

The warship entered the canal on Friday night and was expected to take eight hours to reach the Pacific.

It will dock at Rodman, once the base for all US naval activities in South America.

The BBC says the canal journey, the naval exercises and President Dmitry Medvedev's visit were all aimed at strengthening Russia's influence in the region.