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.


Trudeau’s Liberals to form Canadian minority government: TV projections

Updated 37 min 54 sec ago

Trudeau’s Liberals to form Canadian minority government: TV projections

OTTAWA: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberals will form a minority government, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. projected on Monday after polls closed across the country.
The Liberals were leading or elected in 146 out of 304 electoral districts that had reported results by about 10:30 p.m. EDT (0230 GMT on Tuesday), the CBC said. Trudeau needed to win 170 seats to secure a second majority government.
A minority government in the 338-seat House of Commons would leave Trudeau in a weakened position and needing the support of left-leaning opposition parties to push through key pieces of legislation.
Ahead of the vote, polls showed a neck-and-neck race across the country as Trudeau, who took power as a charismatic figure promising “sunny ways,” battled Conservative leader Andrew Scheer for the chance to form the next government.
Trudeau, 47, the Liberal Party leader, was endorsed by former US President Barack Obama in the final stretch of the campaign and is viewed as one of the last remaining progressive leaders among the world’s major democracies.
But he was shaken during the campaign by a blackface scandal and has been dogged by criticism of his handling of a corruption case involving a major Canadian construction company. Trudeau, the son of the late Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, has also had to overcome a sense of fatigue with his government.
Trudeau, accompanied by his family, voted in Montreal on Monday after a marathon sprint campaigning across the country in the past four days. Scheer voted in his Saskatchewan electoral district.
On Twitter, Trudeau repeatedly urged people to get out and vote. Voter turnout is crucial for the Liberals, who privately fear low engagement will affect them more than the Conservatives.
“(A minority government) would force people to talk to each other, which is what we need,” said Naomi Higgins, a 25-year-old voter in Toronto who supported the Liberals four years ago but switched to the Greens in this election. “We need to ... start doing what’s best for everyone instead of what makes one party or the other look best.”
The Greens were leading or elected in one seat, while the separatist Bloc Quebecois were leading or elected in 33 seats in the province of Quebec.
Liberal campaign strategists say four members of Trudeau’s Cabinet could lose their parliamentary seats, including Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, a veteran member of parliament who is seen as one of the government’s heavyweights.
Goodale, 70, is the only Liberal member of parliament from the western province of Saskatchewan, where anger at Trudeau is mounting over federal environmental policies that the energy industry says will harm output.
The oil industry’s top lobbying group has blamed Trudeau’s policies for throttling investment in the sector, and some global energy companies have shed assets in the oil sands region of Alberta, the country’s main oil-producing province.
Canada’s economy, however, has been on a general upswing in 2019. The Canadian dollar has been the best-performing G10 currency this year, rising more than 4% against its US counterpart, as the economy added jobs at a robust pace and inflation stayed closed to the Bank of Canada’s 2% target.