Russia opens helicopter pilot training center in Venezuela

helicopter

Moscow. Russia’s sole state arms exporter Rosoboronexport says it has opened a training center for military helicopters in Venezuela, a few days after Moscow dispatched troops and equipment to the crisis-hit South American country.

“A modern helicopter training center was built under the contract between JSC Rosoboronexport [part of Rostec State Corporation] with the Venezuelan defense company CAVIM,” the Russian arms corporation said in a statement on Saturday.

It added that the training center had been opened a day earlier “with Russian and Venezuelan specialists participating.”

According to the document, the capabilities of this center allow Venezuelan pilots to receive comprehensive training in flying Russian-built Mi-17V-5, Mi-35M and Mi-26T helicopters in close-to-reality conditions.

“At present, Russian helicopters supplied to Venezuela not only take part in operations against smugglers, but also successfully perform aerial survey of wildfires, take part in rescue and evacuation missions in areas hit by natural disasters and deliver humanitarian cargo to remote regions of the country,” Rosoboronexport said.

The announcement came days after the government of President Nicolas Maduro confirmed the deployment of two Russian planes to Caracas, containing troops and equipment.

Immediately afterwards, the United States accused Russia of “reckless escalation” of the situation in Venezuela, which has been in political chaos since US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido declared himself “interim president” late in January.

Russia later said it had sent militarily experts to the country based on a military-technical cooperation agreement signed by the two countries in 2001.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the roughly 100 servicemen Moscow sent to Venezuela on Saturday would remain in the country “for as long as needed.”

The administration of US President Donald Trump, which immediately recognized Guaido as the leader of Venezuela after his self-proclamation and called other countries to follow suit, has repeatedly threatened to use military force to topple the Maduro government.

Russia and China, however, back the legitimate government of Maduro, who has called Guaido a “puppet” of Washington.

Moscow has also accused Washington of attempting to organize a coup in Venezuela in violation of the United Nations Charter.

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