After a spat with the US, Russian bombers in Venezuela carried out drills over the Caribbean
- Russia deployed nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela earlier this week.
- Their arrival prompted backlash from the US, which drew sharp responses from Russia and Venezuela.
- The bombers conducted exercises over the Caribbean on Wednesday, and Russia has said they'll depart Friday.
Days after their arrival in Venezuela triggered a verbal duel between Washington and Moscow, two Russian strategic bombers carried out drills over the Caribbean Sea, Russia's
"In certain parts of the route, the flight of Russian bombers was conducted together with Su-30 and F-16 fighter jets of the Venezuelan National Bolivarian Military Aviation. The pilots from the two countries practiced air cooperation when fulfilling air tasks," it added.
It is not the first time Tu-160 supersonic bombers have been to Venezuela. They visited in 2013 and in 2008. The earlier occasion came during a period of heightened tensions stoked Russia's brief war with Georgia that year.The latest trip, which comes during heightened tensions over Russia's meddling the 2016 US election and recent clash with Ukraine, prompted sharp words from all sides. Read more: A former top national security official says Venezuela is one of Trump's top 3 priorities - alongside Iran and North KoreaAdvertisement
On Tuesday, Diosdado Cabello - a powerful Venezuelan official who has been accused of involvement in drug trafficking and been sanctioned by the US - mocked the "poor opposition leadership," who he said had called for foreign military intervention but became frenzied at the arrival of the Russian bombers.
"One thing is to call for the devil and other is to see him coming," Cabello said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also chastised Caracas and Moscow, saying on Monday that people in Russia and Venezuela "should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer."
The Pentagon also chimed in, saying that while the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sought visits from Russian aircraft, the US was working with "regional partners and international organizations to provide humanitarian aid to Venezuelans fleeing their crisis-racked nation."Read more: Trump is reportedly considering putting Venezuela on the state sponsors of terror listAdvertisement
The Organization of American States also expressed "the greatest concern" about the visit, saying it was not authorized by Venezuela's national assembly, as required by the constitution.
Venezuela and Russia responded in kind.Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Pompeo's remarks "rather undiplomatic" and "totally inappropriate." Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza on Tuesday called Pompeo's comments "disrespectful," and, like Peskov, described them as "cynical" in light of the US's own military activity abroad.Advertisement
The US and other countries in the region have condemned Maduro for ongoing political strife and economic deterioration in his country - turmoil that has prompted some 3 million Venezuelans to flee, straining resources and prompting backlash in the neighboring countries that have received many of them.On Wednesday, after speaking with Russian officials, the White House said the bombers currently in Venezuela would depart on Friday and return to Russia.Advertisement
However, according to an unverified report in Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, cited by Tass and by Reuters, a longer-term Russian military presence in Venezuela has been discussed, in part as a response to US plans to exit the Cold War-era Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty.Russian officials wanted to deploy "strategic aircraft" to a Venezuelan base in the Caribbean, to which Maduro not object, according to the report. They could go a base on La Orchila island, northeast of Caracas.Advertisement
Read more: The US Navy is pushing north, closer to Russia and into freezing conditions - and it plans to hang around up there
A military expert quoted by the paper said such a deployment would remove the need for those aircraft to return to Russia and for aerial refueling during "patrol missions in the Americas." The aircraft could conduct missions in the region and be replaced on a rotating basis, the expert said.