Private military contractors who work for Russia were sent to Venezuela in the past few weeks to protect President Nicholas Maduro, Reuters reports based on two people’s sayings.
A third person who close to Russian private contractors also informs that group of private soldiers who are secretly working for Kremlin reached to Venezuela, but the source didn’t provide detail information about when Kremlin-linked contractors arrived Venezuela and for what reason they are there.
Reuters reported that in the last month, between 10 and 14 December, an Antonov-124 heavy cargo aircraft, and an Ilyushin-76 transport aircraft, carried out flights between Russia and Caracas. Another Ilyushin-76 also reached in Caracas on December 12 and left the city on December 21, last year. The tracking data shows that all three aircraft belong to the Russian air force.
While the United States, some EU countries and many neighbouring states support the opposition leader Juan Guaido; Russia and China warning countries not to interfere Venezuela’s elected government.
A private military group of Cossacks’ local leader Yevgeny Shabayev who has ties with Moscow, claims that around 400 Russian contractors in Venezuela.
Shabayev shares the information that Russian link military group reached to Venezuela early this week, just before the opposition protests started. “The contractors’ task in Venezuela was to protect Maduro from any attempt by opposition sympathizers in his own security forces to detain him, our people are there directly for his protection,” Shabayev said.
Russia’s Defence Ministry and Venezuela’s Information Ministry didn’t answer Reuters’ question on the Kremlin-linked contractors as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “He has no such information.”
Dozens of contractors and their close friends told Reuters that these paramilitary contractors are associated with the so-called Wagner group. This group consisted of mostly ex-service personnel who fought secretly in support of Russian forces in Syria and Ukraine.
The sources said that Russian aircrafts set off for Havana, Cuba then they transferred onto regular commercial flights to Venezuela as the Cuban government is a close ally of Venezuela’s socialist leaders Hugo Chavez and Maduro for the last two decades.
Another anonymous Russian source, who is close to the Wagner group said the private contractors first arrived before the May 2018 presidential election. The sourced claimed that Russian linked contractor flew to Venezuela not from Moscow but from the third countries they were actively fighting for Russia.
Asked if the deployment was linked to protecting Maduro, the source said: “It’s directly connected.” The contractors flew to Venezuela not from Moscow but from third countries where they were conducting missions, he added.
The tracking data shows that A Russian Ilyushin-96 flew into Havana late on Wednesday. The aircraft started its journey from Moscow and flying via Senegal and Paraguay.
Earlier this week a Turkish private jet TCTTC also landed to Caracas after it followed a path from Istanbul to Moscow on January 23. It wasn’t clear the purpose of the flight and who flew in or out by jet, however, it left Caracas on January 24 and travelled back and forth between Istanbul and Moscow in two days according to flight radar data.