Conspiracy aside: Russian military plane in Venezuela ‘for maintenance of supplied equipment’

An airplane with the Russian flag is seen at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas. ©REUTERS/Manaure Quintero / Free

The much-hyped arrival in Venezuela of a plane operated by Moscow’s Defense Ministry is anything but sensational, a senior Russian diplomat has insisted.

The Russian Air Forces Il-62 transport plane was spotted in Caracas on Monday, sparking speculation on social media about what it was carrying and why. According to Sergey Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister of Russia, the visit is routine and isn’t worthy of much attention.

“The work continues on maintaining the equipment supplied there earlier under defense contracts. This is routine work and there is no reason to sensationalize it,” the diplomat told the Russian media on Tuesday. He said he wouldn’t really describe it as a Russian “military presence” in the South American country, and that it didn’t “carry any element of destabilization” there.

The same aircraft arrived in Venezuela as part of a group of two transports back in March. At that time, senior officials in Washington, including President Donald Trump, blasted Russia for sending its troops to “our hemisphere,” and demanded that the military service members were pulled out.

The US is currently trying to topple the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and replace him with Washington’s chosen replacement, Juan Guaido. The attempts have been futile so far despite harsh economic sanctions imposed on the country and promises of aid and future prosperity under Guaido’s rule.

Russia and Venezuela have had several arms contracts since 2001, when a broad agreement on defense cooperation was signed by their governments. Russia supplied assault rifles, fighter jets, helicopters, anti-aircraft systems and armored personnel carriers, as well as other hardware.

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