Two aircraft of the Russian Armed Forces landed on Saturday at the international airport of Maiquetía, which serves Caracas, transporting military personnel and equipment, confirmed Sunday the Russian state agency Sputnik.
The mission comes in compliance with contracts of a military-technical nature, according to the Sputnik report, which cites sources from the Russian embassy in Caracas. It does not offer more details.
However, those sources told the Russian agency that the arrival of the aircraft has “nothing mysterious”, as it occurs within the framework of agreements signed several years ago.
Journalists of the AFP verified the presence of a plane with Russian flag at the airport, located about 40 minutes from the Venezuelan capital by road, with strong custody of troops of the National Guard.
The Venezuelan authorities, contacted by the AFP, offered no comment.
According to the local press, Russian military aircraft -a jet and a freighter- transferred to Venezuela a hundred soldiers headed by General Vasily Tonkoshkurov, director of mobilization of the high command of the Armed Forces of the European country.
The newspaper El Nacional, published that “35 tons of materials” arrived together with the military mission.
Russia and China, the main creditors of Venezuela’s external debt (estimated at 150 billion dollars), have been allies of Nicolás Maduro’s socialism, amid growing international pressure to abandon power.
The United States imposed financial sanctions against Venezuela and its state oil company PDVSA; and on April 28th, a Washington embargo on Venezuelan oil exports will come into effect.
The administration of Donald Trump, which does not rule out a military option in the face of the Venezuelan crisis, is one of more than 50 governments that recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó, head of parliament, as president in charge of Venezuela.
The military collaboration between Caracas and Moscow has been strengthened since Chávez rose to power, with the purchase of equipment and military weapons.
Last December, two TU160 bombers, a transport plane and a passenger plane were sent by Russia to Venezuela to intervene in defense exercises launched by the Venezuelan Armed Forces.
That deployment stoked Caracas’ tensions with the United States and neighboring Colombia. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, rejected the exercises, accusing Moscow and Caracas of being two corrupt governments squandering public funds and repressing freedom.