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March 31, 2019

Stop interfering in Venezuela, Russia warns US


March 31, 2019

MOSCOW: Russia on Saturday warned Washington to stop interfering in the stand-off between Venezuela’s government and the opposition movement, and once again defended its decision to send personnel to the country.

“We recommend that the United States stop threatening Venezuela, smothering its economy and pushing it towards civil war in open violation of international law,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

On Friday, a statement from the US National Security Advisor John Bolton warned “actors external to the Western Hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela”.

But Zakharova, in her statement on Saturday, said Russia had made it clear it was not sending a military contingent to Venezuela.

Two Russian military planes landed a week ago at the main airport outside Caracas and offloaded equipment and troops, ratcheting up international tensions.

Russian officials insist the troops came to Venezuela as part of a long-standing agreement on military and technical cooperation.

But US President Donald Trump has called on Russia to “get out” of Venezuela, with Russia saying its troops will stay for as long as needed.

The military specialists are apparently helping to fix a malfunctioning Russian S-300 ground-to-air missile system, US envoy Elliott Abrams said on Friday.

Russia and Venezuela signed a military cooperation treaty in 2011 involving the sale of Russian weapons to Venezuela.

Earlier Saturday, Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state arms export company said it has opened a training centre for military helicopter pilots in Venezuela, after Moscow flew in troops and equipment.

Venezuela, Russia’s largest client in Latin America, has already received “a significant amount of Russian arms and military technology”, Rosoboronexport spokesman Davydenko added.

The United States and more than 50 other countries recognise Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president. Russia, along with China, backs President Nicolas Maduro.

Meanwhile, Russia’s sole state arms exporter Rosoboronexport says it has opened a training centre for military helicopters in Venezuela, a few days after Moscow dispatched troops and equipment to the crisis-hit South American country.”A modern helicopter training center was built under the contract between JSC Rosoboronexport (part of Rostec State Corporation) with the Venezuelan defence company CAVIM,” the Russian arms corporation said in a statement on Saturday.

It added that the training centre had been opened a day earlier “with Russian and Venezuelan specialists participating.”

According to the document, the capabilities of this centre allow Venezuelan pilots to receive comprehensive training in flying Russian-built Mi-17V-5, Mi-35M and Mi-26T helicopters in close-to-reality conditions.

“At present, Russian helicopters supplied to Venezuela not only take part in operations against smugglers, but also successfully perform aerial survey of wildfires, take part in rescue and evacuation missions in areas hit by natural disasters and deliver humanitarian cargo to remote regions of the country,” Rosoboronexport said.

The announcement came days after the government of President Nicolas Maduro confirmed the deployment of two Russian planes to Caracas, containing troops and equipment.

Immediately afterwards, the United States accused Russia of “reckless escalation” of the situation in Venezuela, which has been in political chaos since US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido declared himself “interim president” late in January.

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