Russian Troops Land In Oil-Rich Venezuela

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Two planes loaded with Russian soldiers and military equipment landed in Venezuela at the weekend, officials said.

"It's time to prepare for Operation Freedom and putting maximum pressure on the government to finally end usurpation".

The vice president of Venezuela's Socialist Party, Diosdado Cabello, confirmed two planes had flown to the country from Russian Federation, but he did not give a reason or say they carried troops. "They also want to deplete the peaceful options at the disposal of the US -led global effort to promote change in Venezuela and then dare them to contemplate the worst option: military intervention".

According to popular flight-tracking website Flightradar24, Russian Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and Antonov AN-124 military cargo plane left on Friday from Russian military airport Chkalovsky, stopping on its way in Syria before landing in Caracas.

The outage began shortly after 1 p.m. (1700 GMT) and appeared to have affected as many as 16 of Venezuela's 23 states, according to reports on social media.

Pompeo said "the continued insertion of Russian military personnel" in Venezuela could prolong the country's problems and urged Russia "to cease its unconstructive behavior".

Maduro told Venezuelan state media last week that Russian Federation meant to bring "medicine" to the ailing country, which has blocked all aid from the United States, Canada and other western nations. It evoked condemnation from the Organization of American States, which comprises 35 countries in North and South America.

Whatever Russia is delivering to Maduro seems secondary to the message they are clearly trying to send to the Trump Administration about their increasingly close ties to the Venezuelan government, however.

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Lavrov said in a statement he had complained of "attempts by Washington to organize a coup d'etat in Venezuela" during his conversation with Pompeo.

The statement said such moves "constitute violations of the United Nations charter and undisguised interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state".

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro during a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia December 5, 2018.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has a record of ordering his military - or paramilitary - forces into several theaters to challenge United States strategies, notably in Syria and Ukraine.

Guaido is supported by the United States and most Latin American and European nations but he retains the support of Russian Federation and China, US rivals who have offered political and economic support to him. "We need a real solution that doesn't obey to political interests".

"The planes from Russian Federation landed in Venezuela because they were authorized by the only government that there is in Venezuela, and it's called the government of Nicolas Maduro", Cabello said in a speech broadcast on state television.

Rodriguez played recordings he said were from WhatsApp conversations between Marrero and Guaido in which he said they discussed using Venezuelan funds blocked by United States sanctions to finance armed groups with the support of Colombian President Ivan Duque.