MOSCOW – Russia is ready to increase the number of military specialists in Venezuela to fulfill contractual obligations if necessary, a senior representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Aleksandr Schetinin, head of the Latin American Department of Russian MRE, said on the sidelines of the International Economic Forum in St Petersburg that Russia stands ready to expand the presence of military specialists in Venezuela.
“If we need more, we will send more [military specialists], as much as it takes,” said the Russian diplomat.
“If the quantity [present in Venezuela] is not necessary, they will all come back. This is an absolutely technical issue related to the fulfillment of specific contracts to execute a specific volume of work,” he emphasized.
Aleksandr Schetinin announced a new supply of humanitarian aid to the Caribbean country and recalled the new phase of the talks in Oslo between Venezuelan opposition representatives and the government.
This contradicts earlier statements by Washington that Russia had said they would either not increase their involvement, and perhaps even scale it back.
Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin reported that Russia has officially supplied military supplies to Venezuela and now the maintenance of the equipment provided must be carried out.
Earlier Russia’s ambassador to Venezuela, Vladimir Zaemsky, said there was no talk of downsizing in the country. In addition, he stressed that the maintenance of the equipment was being carried out in accordance with the obligations of Russia and Venezuela.
Speaking on Thursday at a economic forum in St Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed some details of relations between Russia and Venezuela, including economic and military aspects.
“Venezuela’s neighbors, even those who condemn Maduro,” he said, “is a total disaster. As far as I can imagine, according to the information I have, US allies, nobody, supports a military intervention,” Putin said.
In addition, Russia does not approve the imposition of sanctions against Venezuela, noting that both ordinary citizens and the world economy suffer from it.
“You cannot interfere in the internal affairs, and even more to apply sanctions, because, as a rule, they are millions of simple citizens who have nothing to do with the authorities that suffer from it,” he said.
“If we consider, for example, that Venezuela has halved its oil production in recent years, if we take into account the situation in which millions of people live in Venezuela, then what is it? “With Maduro or with the population? That’s why we do not approve, on the contrary, condemn such actions,” he added.
Putin also warned that Caracas’ debt to Moscow is currently around $3.5 billion and, according to the president, Venezuela is paying its loan to Russia steadily without any delays.
The president added that Moscow is not creating any military base in Venezuela. He explained that Russian technical experts are in Venezuela to install and maintain Russian military equipment, and that they are contractually obliged to do so.
“We are not building anything on purpose, we are not building military bases, we are not sending troops there – this has never happened, but we have fulfilled and will continue to fulfill our contractual obligations in the sphere of military-technical cooperation,” said the Russian leader.
He recalled that Russia has officially sold arms to Venezuela and, according to the contracts, is obliged to install and maintain these weapons. “And our experts do it,” Putin added.