An airplane with the Russian flag is seen at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas, Venezuela, on Sunday. Carlos Jasso/ Reuters
CARACAS: Two Russian air force planes landed at Venezuela's main airport on Saturday carrying a Russian defense official and nearly 100 troops, according to media reports, amid strengthening ties between Caracas and Moscow.
A flight-tracking website showed that two planes left from a Russian military airport bound for Caracas on Friday, and another flight-tracking site showed that one plane left Caracas on Sunday.
That comes three months after the two nations held military exercises on Venezuelan soil that President Nicolas Maduro called a sign of strengthening relations, but which Washington criticized as Russian encroachment in the region.
Reporter Javier Mayorca wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the first plane carried Vasily Tonkoshkurov, chief of staff of the ground forces, adding the second was a cargo plane carrying 35 tonnes of material.
An Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 military cargo plane left for Caracas on Friday from Russian military airport Chkalovsky, stopping along the way in Syria, according to flight-tracking website Flightradar24.
The cargo plane left Caracas on Sunday afternoon, according to Adsbexchange, another flight-tracking site.
Full view of an airplane with the Russian flag is seen at Simon Bolivar International Airport. Carlos Jasso/ Reuters
The flights carried officials who arrived to "exchange consultations," wrote Russian government-owned news agency Sputnik, which quoted an unnamed source at the Russian embassy.
"Russia has various contracts that are in the process of being fulfilled, contracts of a technical military character," Sputnik quoted the source as saying.
A Reuters witness saw what appeared to be the passenger jet at the Maiquetia airport on Sunday.
Venezuela's Information Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Russia's Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry did not reply to messages seeking comment. The Kremlin spokesman also did not reply to a request for comment.
The Trump administration has levied crippling sanctions on the OPEC nation's oil industry in efforts to push Maduro from power and has called on Venezuelan military leaders to abandon him. Maduro has denounced the sanctions as U.S. interventionism and has won diplomatic backing from Russia and China.
In December, two Russian strategic bomber aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons landed in Venezuela in a show of support for Maduro's socialist government that infuriated Washington.
Maduro on Wednesday said Russia would send medicine "next week" to Venezuela, without describing how it would arrive, adding that Moscow in February had sent some 300 tonnes of humanitarian aid.
Venezuela in February had blocked a convoy carrying humanitarian aid for the crisis-stricken country that was coordinated with the team of opposition leader Juan Guaido, including supplies provided by the United States, from entering via the border with Colombia.
The tense conversation came after Russia sent two planes reportedly carrying around 100 soldiers and 35 tons of military equipment to Venezuela's main airport outside Caracas on Saturday.
For two years, critics of Donald Trump have awaited the outcome of Robert Mueller’s inquiry with high anticipation.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the administration of President Donald Trump was prepared to take military action to stem the crisis in Venezuela.
Philippine Consul General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates Paul Raymund Cortes on Sunday evening thanked the UAE government and other UAE homegrown organisations for making the 121st anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine independence momentous and memorable.
Following the roaring success of the International Day of Yoga during the past four years, the Consulate General of India in Dubai and various Indian community organisations have geared up to repeat the success for the fifth consecutive year.
The Court of Appeal in Fujairah has looked into the murder case of an Asian worker by his colleague in a labour accommodation in the emirate. According to the police records, the defendant who was a flatmate of the victim, was consuming alcohol excessively with five others on the day of the incident. The defendant and the victim entered into a heated discussion. The accused assaulted the victim and stabbed him with a knife in the abdomen. The suspect was subsequently arrested by the police after an attempt to rescue the victim.