The United States on Monday accused Russia of “reckless escalation” of the situation in Venezuela by deploying military planes and personnel to the crisis-stricken South American nation that Washington has hit with crippling sanctions.
The Russian planes and military personnel arrived outside the Venezuelan capital Caracas on Saturday, according to local media reports, two months after the Trump administration disavowed President Nicolas Maduro.
Washington has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate President and demands that Maduro leave power, which Russia has described as a U.S.-backed coup against the socialist government.
“The United States condemns Russia’s deployment of military aircraft and personnel to Caracas, which is another contradiction of both Nicolas Maduro’s and Russia’s calls for non-intervention in Venezuela and is a reckless escalation of the situation,” a State Department spokesman said.
The vice president of Venezuela’s Socialist Party, Diosdado Cabello, confirmed two planes had flown in from Russia.
“The planes from Russia 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.
The Kremlin declined to comment on the planes on Tuesday or to the accusations from the U.S. State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in a phone call on Monday that Washington would “not stand idly by” as Russia backed Maduro, who has overseen a dramatic collapse of a once-bustling economy.
Russia has warned the United States against a military intervention in Venezuela.