Russia yesterday said its troops will stay in Venezuela "for as long as needed", rejecting US President Donald Trump's demand that Russia remove its military from the crisis-stricken country.
Russia's weekend deployment of troops and equipment to bolster President Nicolas Maduro has ratcheted up already high international tensions over Venezuela where the Trump administration is pushing for regime change.
The Russian foreign ministry yesterday insisted the presence of its troops there did not pose a threat to anyone.
"They are involved in the implementation of agreements in the sphere of military and technical cooperation," said ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, adding they would remain in the country "for as long as needed."
"Russia is not changing the balance of power in the region, Russia is not threatening anyone unlike citizens in Washington whom I have just quoted," she told reporters.
She was referring to Trump's comments that "Russia has to get out" of Venezuela as well as to statements by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Washington does not plan to negotiate with Maduro and wants to end Russia and Cuba's influence on Caracas.
The United States and more than 50 other countries recognise Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president while Russia, along with China, backs Maduro.
"Neither Russia nor Venezuela are provinces of the United States," Zakharova said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused Washington of trying to "organise a coup d'etat" in the oil-producing nation.
A Russian air force Antonov-124 cargo plane and a smaller Ilyushin Il-62 landed at the main airport outside Caracas on Saturday and offloaded around 100 troops and tonnes of equipment.