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Russia says it’s ‘not a threat’ after troops land in Venezuela

Vladimir Putin's Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly. (Kremlin/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Moscow says the arrival of Russian soldiers in Venezuela does not present a threat to anyone, after U.S. President Donald Trump called on Russia to withdraw its troops from the South American country and warned that “all options” were open to achieve that..

“Russia is not changing the balance of power in the region, Russia is not threatening anyone, unlike [officials] in Washington,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told journalists on March 28.

Zakharova said that the “Russian specialists” were sent to Venezuela under a military cooperation deal, adding they would remain in the country “for as long as needed.”

Two Russian military planes landed outside Caracas on March 23, carrying nearly 100 Russian military personnel.

The move came amid a diplomatic confrontation between Washington and Moscow over a push by Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to try to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.

The United States and more than 50 other countries have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.

Russia, which has made billions in investments in the Latin American country, has remained a staunch ally of Maduro.

“Russia has to get out,” Trump told reporters at the White House on March 27.

Asked how he would make Russian forces leave, Trump said: “We’ll see. All options are open.”

Vice President Mike Pence called the arrival of the Russian military planes in Caracas an “unwelcome provocation.”

The U.S. government believes the Russian troops include special forces and cybersecurity experts.

Venezuela’s military attache in Moscow, Jose Rafael Torrealba Perez, said on March 28 that the Russians will not take part in military operations.

He also said that Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez is expected to visit Moscow next month as part of the cooperation between the two countries.