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Russia denies withdrawing specialists from Venezuela, says cooperation is set to expand

Russia denies withdrawing specialists from Venezuela, says cooperation is set to expand
Reports of a mass exodus of Russian military and technical specialists from Venezuela are not true, Russian officials say, adding that cooperation with Caracas is going on as usual and is set to expand.

In a Sunday story, the Wall Street Journal reported that Russian military and technical personnel had left Venezuela en masse, with the numbers diminishing from 1,000 to several dozen. The newspaper explained the alleged exodus by a lack of contracts and the fact that Moscow supposedly realized that Caracas lacks any funds to pay for the services of Russian hi-tech, military hardware corporation Rostec.

On Monday, the corporation itself dismissed the report.

"The figures provided in the piece by the Wall Street Journal have been exaggerated tens of times. The numbers of our staff there has remained the same for many years," the press service of Rostec stated.

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The corporation explained that apart from having a permanent representation, it sends groups of technical specialists "from time to time" to Venezuela to perform maintenance and repairs of equipment supplied by Russia. "Just recently, the maintenance of a batch of aircraft was completed," the press service added.

Russia's state military hardware exporter, Rosoboronexport, said that Moscow and Caracas are actually planning to increase cooperation. Russian companies "remain committed to deepening cooperation with the Ministry of Defense and other departments of the Venezuelan government," the exporter stated.

Shortly after the dismissal, US President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that Russia had "removed most of their people" from Venezuela. It was not immediately clear what he meant, since apart from the Russian companies' denials, there has been no official word from Moscow so far.

While military and technical cooperation between Russia and Venezuela has been going on for years, it has caused a stir recently amid the US-backed attempt to oust President Nicolas Maduro and install self-proclaimed 'interim-president' Juan Guaido. Russia's modest military activity in Venezuela caught the eye of American politicians and media, sparking demands for Moscow to "get out" of what Washington believes to be its own "backyard."

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