A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman on Thursday confirmed Russia had sent a team of specialists to Venezuela discuss military cooperation at the request of the government in Caracas. The confirmation comes after President Donald Trump issued a warning to Russia on Wednesday to pull troops out of Venezuela and said “all options” were open to make that happen.
But Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hit back saying “Russian specialists” were on Venezuelan soil.
She said: “Russia is not changing the balance of power in the region, Russia is not threatening anyone, unlike citizens officials in Washington.
“Russian specialists have arrived in Venezuela in line with the provisions of a bilateral inter-government agreement on military-technical cooperation. No one cancelled this document.”
The Kremlin said its actions there were lawful and agreed with the Latin American country’s legitimate government, according to RIA news agency.
Two Russian air force planes reportedly landed outside Caracas on Saturday carrying nearly 100 Russian troops, according to media reports.
Jose Rafael Torrealba Perez from Interfax said: “The presence of Russian servicemen in Venezuela is linked to the discussion of cooperation in the military-technical sphere.”
US President Trump issued the warning to Russia on Saturday as he met with the wife of Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader who has declared himself interim president, in the White House.
He said: “Russia has to get out.”
When asked how he would make Russian forces leave, Mr Trump said: “We’ll see. All options are open”.
In Venezuela’s recent political crisis, many European and South American nations, as well as the USA, are supporting Mr Guaido’s stake in the presidency.
However, Russia and China are backing Nicolas Maduro, despite claims of a corrupt election.
In January, Mr Guaido invoked the constitution to assume Venezuela’s interim presidency, arguing that Mr Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.
But Mr Maduro, who retains control of state functions and the country’s military, has said Mr Guaido is a puppet of the US.