Tags: Trump Administration | Venezuela | pompeo | venezuela | russia | unconstructive | behavior

Pompeo Urges Moscow to Cease 'Unconstructive Behavior' in Venezuela

Pompeo Urges Moscow to Cease 'Unconstructive Behavior' in Venezuela

Monday, 25 March 2019 04:16 PM

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told his Russian counterpart on Monday Washington would "not stand idly by" while Russia throws its weight behind Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, after two Russian air force planes with scores of troops reportedly landed in the OPEC nation.

The Russian planes and nearly 100 military personnel arrived outside the Venezuelan capital Caracas on Saturday, according to local media reports.. If confirmed, the arrival could underscore a strengthening of ties between Moscow and Maduro's embattled socialist government.

Pompeo spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about Venezuela on Monday, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.

The statement did not specifically mention reports about the Russian planes but condemned any Russian military support for the "illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro."

"The secretary called on Russia to cease its unconstructive behavior," Palladino said in a statement.

During the call with Lavrov, Pompeo urged Moscow to join the United States and regional countries in backing opposition leader Juan Guaido.

"Ridiculous. 'Unconstructive behavior' is stealing Venezuela's resources and using them to finance corrupt terrorists like Guaido," Venezuelan Foreign Ministry official William Castillo wrote on Twitter.

Bloomberg news, citing an unnamed Venezuelan information ministry official, reported that the landing of the Russian air force planes was in line with long-term Russia-Venezuela military accords. The purpose of the visit was to perform maintenance on Russian military equipment that Venezuela had purchased, Bloomberg reported.

The information ministry did not respond to requests for comment on the presence of the planes or the Bloomberg report.

The United States believes up to 100 Russian military personnel may have disembarked but it was unclear how many of them might have stayed and how many returned to the aircraft, according to a U.S. official who asked not to be identified. The official declined to speculate about their purpose in Venezuela.

"#Russia is deploying military personnel in (the western) . Hemisphere in #Venezuela," wrote U.S. Senator Marco Rubio on Twitter. "This is a direct challenge to our national interest & poses a direct threat to our national security."

Russia has warned the United States and neighbors against a military intervention in Venezuela.

U.S. President Donald Trump said in 2017 that the "military option" was on the table when it comes to Venezuela, but administration officials have since downplayed talk of armed intervention.

The Trump administration has imposed crippling sanctions on Venezuela's crucial oil industry. On Friday it sanctioned its development bank, Bandes, in efforts to choke off financial flows to Maduro's government and called on Venezuelan military leaders to abandon him.

Maduro has denounced the sanctions as U.S. intervention and maintains diplomatic backing from Russia, China and Cuba.

© 2019 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

   
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told his Russian counterpart on Monday Washington would "not stand idly by" while Russia throws its weight behind Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, after two Russian air force planes with scores of troops reportedly landed in the OPEC...
pompeo, venezuela, russia, unconstructive, behavior, maduro
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2019-16-25
Monday, 25 March 2019 04:16 PM
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