Two Russian Air Force reportedly planes landed in Venezuela’s main airport on Saturday carrying a Russian defence official and around 100 troops.

One flight tracking website shows two aircraft left a Russian military base for the Venezuelan capital Caracas on Friday, with a further jet leaving on Sunday.

The arrival of the military jets was confirmed by Javier Mayorca, an independent journalist, who said an Antonov-124 cargo plane and a smaller jet touched down late on Saturday.

He said approximately 100 soldiers – led by General Vasily Tonkoshkurov, who is head of the Mobilization Directorate of Russia’s armed forces – was also seen, as well as 35 tons of equipment.

Venezuelan authorities have yet to confirm the arrival, while the Russian Embassy in Caracas refused to comment.

Russia has strengthened its ties with Venezuela recently as anti-US President Nicolas Maduro clings to power.

The country is facing an economic crisis of epic proportions due to the disastrous fiscal policies of Maduro’s Socialist Government.

The embattled President has accused the United States of staging a coup against him over efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to his country amid widespread hunger and malnutrition.

Russia has backed Maduro, with its Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev condemning the US for “showing sarcasm and arrogance towards the Venezuelan people”.

He previously claimed the build-up of US troops in neighbouring countries suggests the Trump administration is “preparing a military invasion on an independent state”.

Venezuela food shortages
SHORTAGES: The country has been gripped by food and water shortages (Pic: GETTY)
Donald Trump
COUP: Donald Trump has vowed to increase sanctions after being accused of staging a coup (Pic: GETTY)

Russia and China now stand as the main allies of Venezuela, having lent billions of dollars to the oil-rich country.

President Vladimir Putin has opposed US-led attempts to sanction the country in a bid to propel opposition leader Juan Guaido to power as interim president.

The move by Russia appears to be in response to Donald Trump claiming last week that “all options” are on the table in terms of dealing with Venezuela – hinting at a possible military intervention.

And in April, US sanctions will increase to include a ban on crude imports from Venezuela.

Because the US is one of Venezuela’s biggest importers of oil, it is thought the move could cripple the country and force Maduro to go.

It is not clear exactly why Russia has sent the contingent of soldiers, although it previously sent bombers to take part in a military exercise in Venezuela in December.

Putin also has a long history of flexing his military muscles when sensing the United States is gaining the upper hand in a particular region, such as in Syria.

The US Government has yet to comment.

 

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