07:45 GMT04 August 2020
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    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov earlier refuted claims about a boost in Russia’s military presence in Venezuela, stressing that the Russian military personnel had arrived in the Latin American country to provide scheduled technical maintenance for previously delivered equipment.

    Russia is sending back home its specialists, who over recent months, have provided technical assistance to Caracas in order to maintain military equipment there, the Russian Embassy in Venezuela said in a statement.

    "An IL-62 plane, carrying Russian technicians who have been in Venezuela over the several past months as part of the technical assistance that Russia has been providing under military-technical contracts with Venezuela, will fly out of Caracas to Moscow on 26 June", the statement said.

    The statement follows reports about Moscow pulling personnel from the country that started in the first days of June.

    Media reports said late on 24 June that a Russian Air Force aircraft had landed in Venezuela, sparking claims that Russia planned to increase its military presence in the Latin American country. The reports were refuted by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who said that the Russian military had arrived in Venezuela to perform scheduled military equipment maintenance and not to boost its presence in the country.

    In April, the Russian Embassy in Venezuela said that Russian military specialists were in the country to train technicians and work on repair and maintenance of weapons systems, which were previously sent to Venezuela under bilateral defence industry cooperation agreements. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in turn, said that the presence of Russian military experts in Venezuela was completely legitimate.

    Venezuela has been mired in a serious political crisis since January when US-backed opposition leader and head of the National Assembly Juan Guaido proclaimed himself interim president in a bid to oust incumbent president, Nicolas Maduro.

    The United States and its allies, including a number of EU nations, swiftly recognised Guaido, while Russia, China, Cuba, Bolivia, Turkey among others voiced their support for Maduro as the country’s only legitimate president.


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