Yevgeny Shabaev, a Cossack leader who chairs the All-Russian Officer’s Assembly, revealed the sources of the reports that Russian mercenaries have been sent to protect Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro during the political crisis in the country.
Shabaev told RBC that on 21 January he received a request for assistance from a fighter in one of the Russian private military companies (PMCs). “One of the boys who is involved in the protection of the elite persons in the current structures of the PMCs contacted me as a safety net, and said that he had received an urgent order to assemble the group and leave – he didn’t know where to,” Shabaev said.
“On the 22nd, his relative called back and confirmed that they had arrived in Havana and were being put on a flight,” Shabaev continued, noting that the relative asked him to use his connections in international journalist circles to find out where the troops were being sent from there.
Later Shabaev contacted Reuters. “Yesterday I saw a report that confirmed that they are in Venezuela, and that Russian citizens have been seen working directly around Maduro,” he added.
According to Shabaev, the private security contractors were reportedly sent to Venezuela on two charter flights. The head of the veteran organization was unable to state with certainty the exact number of Russian troops that were sent.
The day before, Reuters reported that members of the Wagner PMC had been supposedly flown to Venezuela to provide additional security for Maduro. However, the Russian ambassador to Caracas called these reports “yet another canard” and professed not to know of any Russian PMC troops in Venezuela.