CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP) — Two Russian long-range strategic bombers landed in Venezuela Monday for what the government said were air force exercises aimed at strengthening the defence of the leftist-ruled South American country.
General Vladimir Padrino, the Venezuelan defence minister, welcomed about 100 Russian pilots and other personnel after the two TU-160s and two other aircraft landed at the international airport that serves Caracas.
Padrino said the deployment showed “we also are preparing to defend Venezuela to the last inch when necessary.”
President Nicolas Maduro often accuses the United States of plotting against his government, which has overseen the plunge of a once-rich petro state into a severe economic crisis.
Besides the two bombers, the deployment included an An-124 transport plane and an Il-62 passenger plane, according to a Russian military announcement in Moscow.
Padrino noted that Russian aircraft had visited before in 2013, but said their current deployment was part of a “new experience.”
He said exercises would be held to “raise the level of interoperability of the aerospace defence systems” of both countries.
It was unclear how long the Russian deployment would last, and Padrino did not provide details about the exercises planned.
In recent years, Venezuela has purchased millions of dollars in military equipment from Russia, he said.