Two Russian air force planes landed in Venezuela’s main airport on Saturday carrying a Russian defense official and nearly 100 troops, according to a local journalist, amid growing unease in the U.S.. and strengthening ties between Venezuela and Russia.
According to a flight-tracking website Flightradar24, two planes left from a Russian military airport bound for Caracas on Friday, and another flight-tracking site showed that one plane left Caracas on Sunday.
Three months earlier the two countries had held military exercises on Venezuelan soil that President Nicolas Maduro termed it as a sign of strengthening relations. The U.S. , however, did not like it and criticized it as Russian encroachment in the region.
Reporter Javier Mayorca wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the first plane carried Vasily Tonkoshkurov, chief of staff of the ground forces, adding that the second was a cargo plane carrying 35 tonnes of material.
As per flight Flightradar24, an Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 military cargo plane left for Caracas on Friday from Russian military airport Chkalovsky, stopping for some time in Syria en route.
The cargo plane left Caracas on Sunday afternoon, according to Adsbexchange, another flight-tracking site.
A media person did see a passenger jet at the Maiquetia airport on Sunday. It was not clear why the planes had come to Venezuela.
Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not respond, Russia’s Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry also did not reply to messages seeking a comment.
The U.S. has levied crippling sanctions on the OPEC nation’s oil industry in efforts to push Maduro from power and has called on Venezuelan military leaders to defect him. Maduro has denounced the sanctions as U.S. interventionism and has diplomatic support from Russia and China.
In December, two Russian strategic bomber aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons landed Venezuela in a show of support for Maduro’s socialist government that made the U.S not very pleased.
Maduro on Wednesday said Russia would send medicine “next week” to Venezuela, without describing how it would arrive, adding that Moscow in February had sent some 300 tonnes of humanitarian aid.
Maduro in February didn’t allow a convoy carrying humanitarian aid for Venezuela that was coordinated with the team of opposition leader Juan Guaido, including supplies provided by the United States, from entering via the border with Colombia.