The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday confirmed the country had sent two planes carrying Russian troops to Venezuela, and that this is part of a 2001 agreement between the two countries.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed late Tuesday that military personnel had been sent “in strict accordance” of their agreement with Venezuela.
The AFP reported that the move was “with full respect for legal norms.”
— AFP news agency (@AFP) March 26, 2019
Here are photos of the Russian planes that landed in Caracus:
— CNW (@ConflictsW) March 23, 2019
The confirmation comes after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Russia on Monday against building up troops in Venezuela, saying the U.S. will not “stand idly by” and let that happen.
It was reported over the weekend that two Russian planes had landed in Caracas, and that they carried about 100 Russian troops.
State Department Spokesman Robert Palladino said, “The continued insertion of Russian military personnel to support the illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela risks prolonging the suffering of the Venezuelan people who overwhelmingly support interim President Juan Guaido.”
Venezuela is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis as two proclaiming leaders vie for power in the country.
Earlier this year, interim President Juan Guaido swore himself in after the people of Venezuela urged him to take action against the Maduro regime. The U.S. and several other countries have publicly recognized Guaido as the new president of Venezuela.
Meanwhile, Maduro has ordered the country’s border with Brazil be closed, and in February he blocked a highway with Colombia where aid was en route. He has also threatened to close the Colombian border, as well. All such efforts have been devastating to the people there, as they rely on humanitarian aid and food from other countries.
Maduro views humanitarian aid as an effort to overthrow him and his authority, and he has called the United States’ efforts an “invasion.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has warned against this.
In February, he tweeted, “I ask every member of the Maduro regime: End this nightmare of poverty, hunger and death. LET YOUR PEOPLE GO. Set your country free! Now is the time for all Venezuelan Patriots to act together, as one united people. Nothing could be better for the future of Venezuela!”
The U.S. Air Force has sent cargo planes to neighboring Colombia with humanitarian assistance, but it is unclear if those goods will make it across the border.
Venezuelan citizens had boycotted the last election, declaring Maduro’s re-election as fraudulent, while supporting opposition leader Guaido and urging him to assume the presidency.
The controversy has grabbed the attention of Russia, who is an ally of Venezuela and has recently strengthened ties with them.