Kremlin Denies Report 400 Russia-Backed Mercenaries Sent To Venezuela

Russia has made no secret of its support for the regime of embattled Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro (after all, the Kremlin has invested billions of dollars in backstopping the Maduro regime by buying the debt if Citgo, the US subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, among other measures). But in a statement to the press on Sunday, a spokesman for the Kremlin denied reports that 400 Kremlin-linked security contractors had been dispatched to Caracas to provide security for Maduro as he faces the most credible challenge to his rule since 2013.

Maduro

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin hasn’t offered any military or financial support for Maduro since the uprising began last week, and denied reports that 400 mercenaries had traveled to Caracas by way of Cuba to protect Maduro, according to the Japan Times.

Asked by a local reporter if the Russian government had dispatched the men to shore up support for its struggling ally, Peskov replied “no, of course not.”

The Kremlin on Sunday denied news reports that Russian private military contractors were in Venezuela to protect embattled President Nicolas Maduro. Several Russian and international media outlets have reported about Russian mercenaries sent to Venezuela to help Maduro who is under international pressure to hold elections. Asked on television about whether there were “400 of our fighters protecting Maduro” in Venezuela, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded: “No of course not.”

Russia’s ambassador to Venezuela echoed Peskov’s denial.

The Russian ambassador to Caracas also dismissed reports of Russian mercenaries in Venezuela. On Friday, a self-proclaimed Cossack leader close to army veterans said a private military contractors group recently returned from Gabon had “urgently” got together “400 people” to send to Caracas via Cuba. Yevgeny Shabayev, leader of a local chapter of a paramilitary group of Cossacks, said he had been contacted by relatives of the men because the objectives of the mission to Venezuela were “not clear.

Maduro is facing pressure to hold Democratic elections just weeks after he was sworn in for his second six-year term as the country’s leader. The original report about the military advisors was sourced to Yevgeny Shabayev, a leader of the paramilitary group. Importantly for Maduro, the ruling socialist regime still has control of all the levers of power in the country, including the military, though the opposition is struggling to convince more Army leaders to defect following a high-profile defection of Venezuela’s military attache to Washington over the weekend.