The Boeing 777, which can hold 400 passengers, arrived in Caracas on Tuesday sparking a flurry of speculation on social media as to what it was doing there. Washington is backing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido against incumbent President Nicolas Maduro. There have been multiple reports of Russian mercenaries operating in the country in support of Mr Maduro.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev commented: “No one has the right to illegally remove from power the head of state who has just won an election, regardless of whether some countries or political forces like him as a person or not.”
Mr Maduro was reelected as Venezuelan President in May 2018, in a vote boycotted by the opposition amidst multiple reports of electoral irregularities.
The Russian aircraft, owned by Nordwind Airlines, flew direct from Moscow to Caracas for the first time ever according to flight tracking data.
Both Moscow and Nordwind Airlines declined requests to comment on the aircraft’s activities.
Conspiracy theories about the purpose of its visit have been swirling around Venezuelan social media.
On January 23 Juan Guaido, President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, declared himself to be the country’s legitimate leader.
This claim was recognised by the US, Canada and a host of South American countries.
A number of European countries, including the UK, Germany and France, gave Mr Maduro eight days to call fresh elections or they will follow suit.
However Russia, China and Iran are continuing to back the Maduro regime.
Yesterday the Venezuelan Attorney General banned Mr Guaido from leaving the country and froze his assets.
Speaking to the BBC Mr Guaido said: “My duty is to call for free elections because there is an abuse of power and we live in a dictatorship.
“In Venezuela, we either accept domination, total oppression and torture from the Maduro’s regime, or we choose freedom, democracy and prosperity for our people”.
More opposition protests are planned for later this week.
The Venezuelan economy has all but collapsed under the Maduro regime, with the country’s currently having an annual inflation rate of 80,000% last year.
According to the UN, 2.3 million Venezuelans have left the country since 2015.