The United States special envoy for Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, speaking at the media briefing, announced that Russian military soldiers who arrived in Venezuela are helping the Venezuelan authorities to restore the work of the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems, which have been affected by a number of large-scale power outages in the country. The video from this event was published on the official U.S. Foreign Ministry’s Twitter.
“As we thought from the very beginning, one of the things they [the Russian military] are doing there is helping the regime [of President Nicolas Maduro] with the C-300 systems that have technically suffered from blackouts,” said Abrams, noting that he does not know what kind of service is carried out by experts. “What else are they doing? They are monitoring [the situation],” said the official. He did not give more comments regarding this.
Two divisions of S-300VM systems (the most advanced modification of S-300) were delivered to the Venezuela in 2013. Since then, Moscow and Caracas have not concluded any new contracts, RIA Novosti reports, citing one of its sources.
Three large-scale power outages occurred in Venezuela in March 2019. Because of the incident, three subway lines stopped operating in Caracas and residents of at least 16 states in Venezuela were left without electricity. The Venezuelan authorities subsequently linked the cyber-attack to the automatic control system of the hydropower plant, in which the United States was allegedly involved.
Last weekend, it was reported that 99 Russian troops had arrived in Venezuela. Later, the authorities of Venezuela and Russia confirmed this information. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that “military experts” arrived in the country to implement the provisions of the treaties on military-technical cooperation. According to her, they will stay there as long as "Venezuelan government needs them."
The Aide to the President of the Russian Federation, Yuri Ushakov, said that the military was sent to Venezuela "within the framework of normal relations with the legitimate government" of this country. The military attaché of the Venezuelan embassy in Moscow said that the Russian military is not expected to participate in any military operations in Venezuela.
US President Donald Trump demanded that Russia withdraw all of the soldiers and equipment that it sent to Venezuela on Saturday 23 March.
When asked to clarify how he intends to ensure that the Kremlin stops backing Maduro, Trump responded that “All options are open,” a phrase he previously used to indicate the possibility of US military intervention.
The US State Department called the arrival of Russian troops on Saturday a “senseless escalation”. “Russia has sent troops, although it has insisted itself that a military solution to the crisis in the Latin American country will not solve the problems,” an official spokesperson told Reuters.
“Moscow’s actions go against its own assertions and those of Maduro,” the US official stressed.