13:15 GMT22 February 2020
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    BEIJING (Sputnik) - Reports alleging the presence of Russian mercenaries in Venezuela are untrue, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Sputnik, adding that Moscow would not be speculating about a potential response to a military intervention by any country in the Bolivarian republic since it would be counterproductive.

    Last week, the Reuters news agency reported, citing anonymous sources, that "private military contractors who do secret missions for Russia" had recently arrived in Venezuela, which is currently going through a political crisis, to protect Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Russian Ambassador in Caracas Vladimir Zaemsky has denied this information and told Sputnik in an interview that the report was "another hoax".

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has also said that the reports are false.

    Odious Claims

    According to Ryabkov, news outlets tend to cover the events in Venezuela in the most provocative and odious manner possible.

    "I do not know why the most unreliable, false, odious and in no way relating to our policy scenarios are being focused on against the background of the scope of available information on the matter", Ryabkov told Sputnik, asked on whether there were really Russian mercenaries in Venezuela.

    READ MORE: Only US Refineries to Be Hit by Sanctions on Venezuelan Oil Firm — Energy Expert

    The deputy minister added that he believed that all leaks alleging the presence of any contractors in Venezuela or neighbouring countries were aimed at escalating tensions in the region.

    "This all is aimed at whipping up tensions, [it's like] pouring gasoline on the fire", Ryabkov argued.

    Undesirable Military Scenarios

    The Russian diplomat stressed that Moscow would not speculate on what actions it might take in the event of military intervention in Venezuela by any country, calling it counterproductive, and urged everyone who might be considering this kind of intervention to refrain from doing so.

    "In the recent past, we have repeatedly faced situations in which unlawful external interference in internal processes of countries around the world led to bloodshed, the same thing can happen to Venezuela", Ryabkov warned.

    READ MORE: US Activity in Venezuela Mainly Aimed at Getting Country's Oil — Maduro

    Ryabkov reiterated that Moscow was ready to work with all sides of the Venezuelan conflict in order to urgently launch an intra-Venezuelan dialogue. He emphasized that the sooner the process was launched, the better.

    Crisis Escalation

    Mass protests against the re-election of Venezuela's incumbent president, Maduro, began in Venezuela on January 21. Two days later, the speaker of the opposition-led Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, declared himself interim head of state with the intention of leading the transitional government until a new presidential election is held.

    Maduro, in turn, has insisted that he is the country's constitutional president and accused the opposition leader of being a US puppet. Maduro also accused Washington, which has long voiced concerns over the legitimacy of his re-election last year, of organising a coup in Venezuela.

    While dozens of countries, mostly those in Latin America, have recognized Guaido as the acting Venezuelan president, Russia has reaffirmed its support for Maduro as the legitimately elected head of state.

    Related:

    Only US Refineries to Be Hit by Sanctions on Venezuelan Oil Firm - Energy Expert
    Maduro: Military Defectors in Colombia Planning Coup Attempt Against Venezuela
    Trump Warns US Citizens Against Visiting Venezuela Until Further Notice
    Venezuelan Opposition to Hold Rally on Wednesday Amid Probe Against Guaido
    Tags:
    oil, protests, coup, Juan Guaido, Nicolas Maduro, Dmitry Peskov, Sergei Ryabkov, Russia, Venezuela
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