Russian military planes deliver troops and cargo to Venezuela

Activists walk past the front of the Trump International Hotel during the Hands Off Venezuela! 16 March 2019 Washington

Activists walk past the front of the Trump International Hotel during the Hands Off Venezuela! 16 March 2019 Washington

The Sputnik report was published after a Venezuelan journalist, Javier Mayorca, said on his Twitter feed that a Russian air force Antonov-124 cargo plane and a smaller jet, apparently an Ilyushin Il-62, had landed at the main airport outside Caracas on Saturday.

The delivery is part of ongoing cooperation between the two nations.

He said the planes offloaded around 100 Russian soldiers led by General Vasily Tonkoshkurov, head of the Mobilization Directorate of Russia's armed forces, and disembarked 35 tons of equipment. The Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet had flown from Moscow via Syria, where Russian Federation supports President Bashar Assad.

Russian military officials are visiting to discuss equipment maintenance and training, and strategy, the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

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The cargo plane left Caracas on Sunday afternoon, according to Adsbexchange, another flight-tracking site. Russian Federation has emerged as a key ally of Maduro in his efforts to maintain his grip on power.

Background: The Russian government has long regarded Venezuela as a Latin American ally that it can use to increase strategic pressure on the United States.

Maduro on Wednesday said Russian Federation would send medicine "next week" to Venezuela, without describing how it would arrive, adding that Moscow in February had sent some 300 tonnes of humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, Venezuela has been suffering from a severe political crisis for around two months, after the leader of the country's opposition, Juan Guaido, illegally proclaimed himself interim president, contesting the re-election of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro previous year. Three months ago the two nations held military exercises in Venezuela, which were criticized by Washington as Russian encroachment in the region. In January, Guaido declared himself interim president, saying elections in 2018 were rigged.

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