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Russia confirms, defends sending military experts to Venezuela

An airplane with the Russian flag is seen at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas, Venezuela, March 24, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Russia has confirmed and defended sending military experts to Venezuela, saying the dispatch is based on a military-technical cooperation agreement signed by the two countries in 2001.

Asked to comment on earlier reports about the arrival of two Russian planes in Venezuela, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said military experts had been dispatched to Venezuela under a bilateral agreement inked 18 years ago, RT reported on Tuesday.

“The Russian Federation develops its cooperation with Venezuela in strict compliance with the constitution of this country and with full respect to its legislative norms. Russian [military] specialists' presence on the territory of Venezuela is regulated by the defense cooperation agreement that the Russian and the Venezuelan governments signed in May 2001,” she said.

Zakharova said the 2001 cooperation deal “doesn’t require any additional approval by National Assembly of Venezuela,” which has been declared defunct by the government.

Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

Unverified media reports suggested earlier that two Russian Air Force planes carrying dozens of troops and amounts of equipment had landed in Venezuela’s main airport.

Speaking on Monday, Diosdado Cabello, the vice president of Venezuela’s Socialist Party, confirmed the arrival of two Russian planes but did not elaborate beyond saying that the entry had been officially authorized.

“What are they themselves doing in Eastern Hemisphere?”

On Tuesday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said that Washington would not tolerate what he called “hostile foreign military powers meddling with the Western Hemisphere’s shared goals of democracy, security, and the rule of law.” Bolton was making a tacit reference to a 19th-century practice under which some of the powers at the time had agreed to avoid presence in the Western Hemisphere.

The US State Department has also described the dispatch as “a reckless escalation of the situation” in Venezuela.

Zakharova said Bolton’s remarks proved that the US still considered “Latin America an area of its exclusive interests, its own ‘backyard,’ and demands unquestionable obedience from it.”

She questioned the US expectation that other countries have no presence in the Western Hemisphere even as America itself is present in the Eastern Hemisphere. “What are they themselves doing in Eastern Hemisphere?” she exclaimed.

“Perhaps, they (the Americans) believe that the people of this part of the world will be thankful when Washington willfully changes their leaders and kills the unwanted ones. Or the US still believes that people are waiting for the Americans to bring democracy to them on the wings of their bombers. Ask Iraqis, Libyans, or Serbs about it,” the Russian official said.

In recent months, tensions have increased between Caracas and Washington. The US has sanctioned Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as well as his government and recognized opposition figure Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s “interim president.”

US President Donald Trump has said “all options” are being considered against Caracas.

Russia vocally opposes US measures against Venezuela and accuses Washington of attempting to organize a coup there in violation of the United Nations Charter.

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