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Trump administration warns Russia against sending troops to Venezuela


The Trump administration is warning Russia and other foreign nations against sending troops to Venezuela to help embattled President Nicolás Maduro maintain his grip on power.

"We strongly caution actors external to the Western Hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela, or elsewhere in the Hemisphere, with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations," national security adviser John Bolton said in a statement Friday.

"We will consider such provocative actions as a direct threat to international peace and security in the region," he added.

The remarks came after reports that two Russian planes with military advisers and as many as 100 troops landed in Venezuela earlier this week.

Russia has downplayed the move, saying the advisers and supplies were part of a joint cooperation agreement with Venezuela.

In the statement, Bolton took aim at Maduro and urged members of Venezuela's military to support the interim government declared by opposition party leader Juan Guaidó.

"Maduro will only use this military support to further repress the people of Venezuela; perpetuate the economic crisis that has destroyed Venezuela’s economy; and endanger regional stability," Bolton said. "We call on the Venezuelan military to uphold its constitutional duty to protect the citizens of Venezuela."

The U.S. has led nations in recognizing Guaidó as Venezuela's leader.

President Trump during a meeting with Guaidó's wife, Fabiana Rosales, in the Oval Office on Wednesday also warned Russia against getting involved in Venezuela.

"Russia has to get out," Trump said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also delivered that message to his Russian counterpart. Pompeo told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the move "risks prolonging the suffering of the Venezuelan people who overwhelmingly support interim President Juan Guaidó," according to the State Department.

Maduro's government is attempting to cling to power as the country faces blackouts and shortages of food and medicines, problems he has blamed on the U.S.

Trump has said all options are on the table for dealing with the crisis in Venezuela.

"Past administrations allowed this to happen," Trump said on Wednesday. "I’ve inherited a mess between North Korea, and all of the problems we have all over the world, the entire Middle East and Venezuela. These are things that never — they never should have happened."

“But I’ll fix it,” he added. “We’re fixing it all over the world. That’s what we’re going to do."