The Spanish newspaper El Mundo , citing the local press, has repeatedly reported that in the west of Venezuela, near the border with Colombia, where in recent months there have been fierce battles between the Venezuelan army and criminal gangs and the Colombian groups FARC and ELN penetrating the country, speakers appeared -Russian fighters. Who they are and what their status is is unknown - access to the conflict area for journalists is tightly closed. Be that as it may, Russian mercenaries have been seen evacuating wounded Venezuelan soldiers from the battlefield, as well as servicing military equipment that Moscow continues to supply to Caracas. Yes, none of these desperate guys, apparently, was going to hide.
“Tall, fair-skinned, stern men in military uniform, speaking Russian among themselves. All are armed with the latest Kalashnikov assault rifles, which are not in service with the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, ”this is how the locals described people who fought in the impenetrable swamps and forests of Venezuela.
According to NI , at least some of this "team of Russians" may belong to the "Wagner Group". At the same time, sources close to military circles in Moscow were unable to report the possible number of Russian mercenaries in Venezuela.
Yet in the West, the media sing the same song: under President Nicolás Maduro, Moscow has expanded its presence in Venezuela. In 2020, according to The Washington Post , a group of Russian drone experts assisted Venezuelan security forces in Operation Shark to search for and capture insurgent military personnel who had landed on the country's coast. It was the first joint military operation with Russia in the region in the 21st century. Earlier, Tupolev bombers arrived at the Maiketiya airport. The purpose of their sending was to demonstrate the strength of the union of the two states.
It is no secret that Russian technical personnel serving military equipment are present in various parts of Venezuela. Informally, instructors, representatives of the so-called "special forces", who train the Venezuelan military and law enforcement officers, settled in Caracas.
In Cuba, says El Mundo , the current situation is very different from what it was during the Cold War.
Back then, Moscow had three main aspects of its military presence. First of all, at the Center for Electronic Intelligence in Lourdes, in the suburbs of Havana, from which it was possible to intercept most of the messages from the United States. In 2001, Moscow closed this expensive base. Secondly, there was a submarine base in Cienfuegos, where Soviet submarines on combat duty in the Atlantic were refueled. Thirdly, there was a military brigade in Cuba consisting of four battalions - two mechanized, one tank and one artillery. It existed there until the collapse of the USSR. Its strength was three thousand people, and it had ground combat potential. All these forces have been disbanded, but military-technical cooperation is still maintained.
Work has not been interrupted with the Cuban military-industrial complex, thanks to which Soviet equipment has been modernized.
Why does Russia again want to cling to Latin America, when the memories of the Caribbean crisis, which so frightened the whole world, are still fresh?
“Russia is a regime highly self-centered, centralized in decision-making; it can operate effectively in Syria, Venezuela, Africa and Central Asia with the help of a military contingent and military advisers, and also exercise an asymmetric influence that does not match its economic potential. These are geopolitical steps with a global perspective ,” said Spanish historian Armando Chaguaseda .
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov , speaking about the possibility of deploying Russian troops in Latin America, said he did not want to confirm or exclude anything.