Russian military officials have arrived in Venezuela to discuss equipment maintenance and training, and strategy, an official in Caracas has said. The statement came after a Russian-flagged cargo plane and an airliner were spotted at Maiquetia airport outside Caracas guarded by a contingent of Venezuelan national guardsmen, Guardian reported.
A Venezuelan official said the aircraft arrived this weekend as part of ongoing military cooperation between the two allies. Flightradar24 showed the flight path on Saturday of what it listed as a Russian air force plane, apparently headed to Caracas while flying across the Caribbean.
Javier Mayorca, a Venezuelan journalist, wrote that a Russian cargo plane with military equipment also arrived in Caracas on Saturday. According to Mayorca, around 100 Russian soldiers led by General Vasily Tonkoshkurov, head of the mobilisation directorate of Russia’s armed forces, disembarked along with about 35 tons of equipment.
Russia backs Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, who has rejected demands from the United States and dozens of other countries that he resign. Moscow has also vocally opposed U.S. moves to sanction Maduro and his government, and to recognise opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president.
In December, Russia sent two Tu-160 strategic bombers to Venezuela for several days in a demonstration of support for Maduro, who has rejected demands from the United States and dozens of other countries that he resign, AP noted.
Moves against Caracas have ratcheted up in recent weeks, with President Donald Trump warning “all options” – implicitly including U.S. military intervention – were being considered.
On April 28, U.S. sanctions are set to escalate with a ban on crude oil imports from Venezuela. America is historically Venezuela’s biggest oil buyer, and that step is expected to severely crimp the Maduro government’s already diminished finances.