Two Russian air force planes landed at Venezuela’s main airport on Saturday carrying a Russian defense official and nearly 100 troops, according to media reports, amid strengthening ties between Caracas and Moscow.
An Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 military cargo plane left for Caracas on Friday from Russian military airport Chkalovsky, stopping along the way in Syria, according to flight-tracking website Flightradar24. Reporter Javier Mayorca wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the first plane carried Vasily Tonkoshkurov, chief of staff of the ground forces, adding the second was a cargo plane carrying 35 tonnes of material.
This comes three months after the two nations held military exercises on Venezuelan soil that President Nicolas Maduro called a sign of strengthening relations, but which Washington criticized as Russian encroachment in the region.
Russia has long been an ally of Venezuela, lending the South American nation billions of dollars and backing its oil industry and military. Russia has also vocally opposed moves from the US to sanction the government of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro.
Russia appears to be intent on demonstrating the limits of US policy towards Venezuela and is openly critical of the Trump administration push for regime change and the re-establishment of democracy.