Russian air force planes land in Venezuela carrying troops: reports

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An airplane with the Russian flag is seen at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas, Venezuela March 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
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An airplane with the Russian flag is seen at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas, Venezuela March 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 March 2019

Russian air force planes land in Venezuela carrying troops: reports

  • Russia backs Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who has rejected demands from the United States and dozens of other countries that he resign

CARACAS: Two Russian air force planes landed at Venezuela’s main airport on Saturday carrying a Russian defense official and nearly 100 troops, according to media reports, amid strengthening ties between Caracas and Moscow.
A flight-tracking website showed that two planes left from a Russian military airport bound for Caracas on Friday, and another flight-tracking site showed that one plane left Caracas on Sunday.
That comes three months after the two nations held military exercises on Venezuelan soil that President Nicolas Maduro called a sign of strengthening relations, but which Washington criticized as Russian encroachment in the region.
Reporter Javier Mayorca wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the first plane carried Vasily Tonkoshkurov, chief of staff of the ground forces, adding the second was a cargo plane carrying 35 tons of material.
An Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 military cargo plane left for Caracas on Friday from Russian military airport Chkalovsky, stopping along the way in Syria, according to flight-tracking website Flightradar24.
The cargo plane left Caracas on Sunday afternoon, according to Adsbexchange, another flight-tracking site.
The flights carried officials who arrived to “exchange consultations,” wrote Russian government-owned news agency Sputnik, which quoted an unnamed source at the Russian embassy.
“Russia has various contracts that are in the process of being fulfilled, contracts of a technical military character,” Sputnik quoted the source as saying.
A Reuters witness saw what appeared to be the passenger jet at the Maiquetia airport on Sunday.
Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Russia’s Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry did not reply to messages seeking comment. The Kremlin spokesman also did not reply to a request for comment.
The Trump administration has levied crippling sanctions on the OPEC nation’s oil industry in efforts to push Maduro from power and has called on Venezuelan military leaders to abandon him. Maduro has denounced the sanctions as US interventionism and has won diplomatic backing from Russia and China.
In December, two Russian strategic bomber aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons landed in Venezuela in a show of support for Maduro’s socialist government that infuriated Washington.
Maduro on Wednesday said Russia would send medicine “next week” to Venezuela, without describing how it would arrive, adding that Moscow in February had sent some 300 tons of humanitarian aid.
Venezuela in February had blocked a convoy carrying humanitarian aid for the crisis-stricken country that was coordinated with the team of opposition leader Juan Guaido, including supplies provided by the United States, from entering via the border with Colombia.


Trump lauds US economy in Davos, says little on climate woes

Updated 2 min 53 sec ago

Trump lauds US economy in Davos, says little on climate woes

  • Trump addressed the annual WEF in Davos, hours before his impeachment trial was to reconvene in the US Senate

DAVOS: President Donald Trump boasted Tuesday that he’s led a “spectacular” turnaround of the US economy and urged the world to invest in America, but had little to say about climate change issues that are a focus of this year’s gathering of top business and political leaders in the Swiss Alps.
Trump addressed the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, hours before his historic impeachment trial was to reconvene in the US Senate in Washington. The two-day visit will test Trump’s ability to balance his anger over being impeached with a desire to project leadership on the world stage.
He reminded the audience that when he spoke here two years ago, early in his presidency, “I told you that we had launched the great American comeback.”
“Today I’m proud to declare the United States is in the midst of an economic boom, the likes of which the world has never seen before,” the president said.
American economist Kenneth Rogoff said some, but not all of Trump’s claims regarding the strength of the US economy are true. But he noted that the economy wasn’t doing badly when he took office. “It’s been a good 10 years and his three years probably better than expected,” Rogoff said, adding that he thought Trump was careful to keep his comments about climate change to a minimum to avoid getting booed.
Climate issues are a main theme at the forum and the phrase “Act on Climate” was written in the snow at the landing zone where Trump’s Marine One helicopter set down in Davos.
Late last year, the Trump administration began pulling the US out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement signed by nearly 200 nations. Under the deal, each country sets goals to curb emissions of heat-trapping gasses that lead to climate change. Trump has called the Paris accord an unfair economic burden to the US economy.
Trump’s speech was received in virtual silence from the audience apart from a brief flurry of applause when Trump said the US would join a World Economic Forum initiative to plant 1 trillion trees worldwide.
Climate activists Greta Thunberg doubled down on her criticism that world and business leaders aren’t taking the threat of global warming seriously, dismissing some of the measures bandied about by governments and companies, such as setting long-term targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and planting billions of new trees to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“Planting trees is good of course but it’s nowhere near enough,” Thunberg said.
Trump’s participation at the forum provided another conspicuous split-screen moment in his presidency. Before entering the hall to deliver his speech, Trump called the trial “disgraceful” and part of “the witch hunt that’s been going on for years.”
Asked whether Trump would watch the impeachment trial from Davos, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “He has a full day here in Davos, but will be briefed by staff periodically.”
Trump spent nearly all of his approximately 30-minute speech talking about how the US economy has performed under his leadership.
“America is thriving. America is flourishing and yes, America is winning again like never before,” Trump said before talking about a newly signed trade deal with China and a pending trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. He also spoke of record low unemployment, stock market gains and millions of people removed from the welfare rolls.
Trump’s speech was criticized by the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz for failing to address the climate emergency beyond a commitment that the US will join the initiative to plant a trillion trees worldwide.
“He managed to say absolutely zero on climate change,” Stiglitz said. “Meanwhile we’re going to roast.”
Trump’s appearance at the forum ends Wednesday when he travels back to a Washington, which is consumed by the impeachment trial.
The Democratic-controlled House impeached the Republican president last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after it was revealed that he had pressed Ukraine’s president to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat and a Trump political rival. Trump withheld foreign aid that Congress had approved for the Eastern European nation and dangled the prospect of an Oval Office meeting as leverage.
Trump denies any wrongdoing and argues that Democrats want to remove him from office because they know they can’t deny him reelection in November. Trump would be forced to leave office if convicted, but the Republican-controlled Senate is expected to acquit him.
The White House has not named any of the business leaders Trump is set to meet with. But he is scheduled to hold talks Tuesday and Wednesday with the leaders of Iraq, Pakistan, Switzerland and Iraq’s self-governing Kurdish region, as well as the forum’s founder, the White House said. Trump also will have his first meeting with the new European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to hold the position.