Moscow speaks out on claim that it withdrew military advisers from Venezuela

MOSCOW (Sputnik): On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing an unnamed source said to be close to Russia’s Defence Ministry, that Russian defence conglomerate Rostec had withdrawn “key” defence advisers from Venezuela.

Russian Ambassador to Venezuela Vladimir Zaemsky has refuted reports about the withdrawal of Russian military specialists from the Latin American country.

“This is another piece of ‘news’ which has absolutely nothing to do with reality. Work is being carried out in accordance with existing obligations, and there is no talk of any cuts,” Zaemsky said, speaking to Sputnik on Monday.

Earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing “a person close to the Russian defence ministry,” that Rostec, a major conglomerate consolidating strategically important companies including defence and high-tech firms, and which has been engaged in the training of the Venezuelan military, had cut its staff in Venezuela from about 1,000 several years ago to “just a few dozen” today.

The WSJ claimed that the withdrawal of Russian advisers was an “embarrassment” for President Nicolas Maduro, and a sign that Russia was weighing “the leader’s political and economic resilience against growing US pressure.”

Earlier Monday, Rostec’s press service said in a statement that The Wall Street Journal had “overestimated the numbers of Rostec staff in Venezuela by several times,” and noted that the numbers had actually remained “unchanged for many years.”

“As for technical experts, they come to the country from time to time in order to repair previously delivered equipment and provide technical maintenance,” Rostec added.

Moscow has provided Venezuela with military support in the form of military specialists operating in the country under contracts for the supply of Russian-made weapons systems.

The contracts were signed before the start of the political crisis in the country earlier this year, and Russian officials have indicated recently that they have no plans to sign new contracts on the delivery of weaponry to Venezuela at the moment given the financial difficulties the country is in. Venezuela’s armed forces are already equipped with a wide variety of modern Russian aircraft, helicopters, armoured vehicles, and air defence systems, including the S-300VM.

Venezuela’s opposition, led by National Assembly lawmaker Juan Guaido, has been attempting to carry out a US-backed coup d’état in Venezuela since late January, with Guaido proclaiming himself ‘interim president’.

The coup attempt received the immediate backing of the US and its Latin American and European allies, while several dozen other countries, including Russia and China, voiced support for the democratically elected government, or urged non-interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs at the UN.