0454 GMT August 18, 2019
Cabello made the remarks in a speech broadcast on state television on Monday, without providing further details.
His emphasis on the legitimate government in Venezuela was because an opposition figure, Juan Guaido, has declared himself “interim president” of the country and has been attempting to shore up international support for a “government” of his own, Press TV reported.
Sputnik had earlier quoted a diplomatic source in Caracas as telling the Russian new agency that a group of Russian military personnel had arrived in Venezuela for “bilateral consultations” related to “contracts... on military and technical cooperation.”
An independent Venezuela journalist, Javier Mayorca, also wrote in a Twitter message that a Russian Air Force Antonov-124 cargo plane and a smaller jet, apparently an Ilyushin Il-62, had landed in the country on Saturday.
Mayorca claimed the aircraft brought around 100 Russian soldiers led by General Vasily Tonkoshkurov, the head of the Mobilization Directorate of Russia’s armed forces, and disembarked 35 tons of equipment.
Social media, nonetheless, picked up the information along with a picture (seen below) purportedly showing a Russian-flagged aircraft and Russian troops at a Caracas airport.
Immediately afterwards, the United States accused Russia of the “reckless escalation” of the situation in Venezuela, which has plunged into political chaos since US-backed Guaido declared himself “interim president” late in January.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, accusing Moscow of “non-constructive behavior.”
Pompeo told Lavrov the US “will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela.”
Another Sputnik report cited a Venezuelan source as saying that the visit by the Russian military personnel to Venezuela is “in no way connected” to the statements by the US and “is about discussing contracts that had been concluded long before the crisis in Venezuela.”
The administration of US President Donald Trump, which immediately recognized Guaido as the leader of Venezuela after his self-proclamation, has repeatedly threatened to use military force to topple the Maduro government.
Washington has no military cooperation with Caracas. Russia, however, is an ally of Venezuela and is involved in defense cooperation with Caracas based on bilateral contracts.
Moscow has said Guaido is involved in an “illegal attempt to seize power” in Venezuela, and has pledged to do “everything required” to support the elected government of Maduro.
Many other countries have also urged that the elected Venezuelan government not be undermined by the recognition of an unelected, hitherto-unknown opposition figure.