Russia, which is weighing Nicolas Maduro’s political and economic resilience against growing U.S. pressure, has withdrawn key defense advisers from Venezuela, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Russian state defense contractor Rostec, whiсh has trained Venezuelan troops and advised on securing arms contracts, has cut its staff in Venezuela to just a few dozen, from about 1,000 at the height of cooperation between Moscow and Caracas several years ago, said a person close to the Russian Defense Ministry,” the article reads.
According to the WSJ, Moscow has lost hope of saving Maduro’s regime; the Kremlin realizes that Venezuela will not be able to settle accounts for previous deliveries. In addtion, Rostec has apparently taken cognisance of Donald Trump’s statement that the United States are keeping all possible options open to make Russians leave Venezuela.
Venezuela is experiencing a protracted economic crisis resulting from the policies of Nicolas Maduro. There is hyperinflation, people lack food and medicine, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have left the country. At the end of 2018, a presidential election was held in Venezuela, where Maduro won again. However, the opposition and most of the countries of Latin America did not recognize Maduro’s victory, since they did not consider the elections free and fair.
In late January, mass protesting against president Nicolas Maduro erupted in Venezuela. Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition National Assembly, declared himself acting president during an opposition rally in Caracas. The United States, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay and the Vatican officially acknowledged Guaido as a legitimate interim head of Venezuela while Russia, Mexico and Bolivia failed to recognize his legitimacy.
On January 25, news agency Reuters reported with reference to sources familiar with the situation that members of the so-called Wagner private military company headed for Venezuela to guard Nicolas Maduro. The grouping of Russian mercenaries led by Commander Dmitry Utkin is supposedly financed by Evgeny Prigozhin whose nickname is ‘Putin’s Chef’. Wagner is supposedly fighting for separatists in Donbas and for al-Assad in Syria. In turn, the Kremlin denied the reports about Russia’s military being involved in the developments in Venezuela.
In late March, Venezuelan officials confirmed the fact of Russian military’s arrival in the country as part of ‘military cooperation between the two allies’.