“Two Russian planes arrived in Caracas, Venezuela on Saturday with equipment and personnel to fulfil technical military contracts”, Russian state news agency sputnik reported on Sunday.
Giving no other details, it quoted an anonymous official from the Russian embassy in Caracas saying “there is nothing mysterious” about the flights. After Venezuelan Journalist, Javier Mayorca tweeted that a Russian Air force Antonov-124 cargo plane and a smaller jet (later found to be Ilyushin Il-62) on late Saturday at the airport.
Around 100 Russian soldiers led by General Tonkoshkurov, head of the Mobilization Directorate of Russia’s armed forces disembarked along with about 35 tons of equipment.
However, there is no confirmation from the Venezuelan Authorities, also the Russian embassy in Caracas declined to comment on the report, which is virally carried by the Venezuelan media.
Russia and China are the biggest allies of this South American country. Both have lent billions of dollars to the oil-rich South American country, propping up the anti-US the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
Russia while vocally opposing the US moves to sanction Maduro and his government recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president. The US moves against Caracas have ratcheted up in recent weeks, with President Donald Trump warning “all options” (implicitly including US military intervention) were being considered. With Maduro government’s already diminished trades, the US sanctions a ban on crude imports from Venezuela. With the US historically being Venezuela ’s biggest oil buyer, this move is expected to crimp the Maduro government.
As we have already seen, Russian president Vladimir Putin has a record of ordering his military (or paramilitary) forces into several theatres just to challenge the US strategies, especially in Syria and Ukraine. Any Russian foothold in South America, specifically Venezuela would surely alarm the US military. However, noting that Trump has routinely avoided criticizing Putin publicly, this could also be a political test for Trump.