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SWAY OF PIGS! Putin Sends Nuclear Bomber Jets To Caribbean In Time For Christmas

CARACAS — Two Russian strategic bomber aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons have landed in ally Venezuela, a show of support for Venezuela’s socialist government that has infuriated Washington.

The TU-160 supersonic bombers, known as “White Swans” by Russian pilots, landed at Maiquetia airport near capital Caracas on Monday after covering at least 6,200 miles (10,000 km), the Russian and Venezuelan governments said.

A Tu-160 supersonic “White Swan” long-range bomber that flew in to Simon Bolivar Airport in Maiquetia, Vargas about 13 miles from the Venezuelan capital of Caracas on Monday

Their deployment came days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose left-wing administration is the most significant United States foe in Latin America, held talks with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

As OPEC member Venezuela’s socialist-run economy implodes, Russia has become a key lender of last resort, investing in its oil industry and providing support to its military.

Capable of carrying short-range nuclear missiles, the planes can fly over 12,000 km (7,500 miles) without re-fuelling and have landed in Venezuela twice before in the last decade.

“Russia’s government has sent bombers halfway around the world to Venezuela,” fumed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Twitter.

“The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”

‘HIGHLY UNDIPLOMATIC’

The Kremlin on Tuesday rejected Pompeo’s criticism, saying it was “highly undiplomatic” and “completely inappropriate.”

“As for the idea that we are squandering money, we do not agree. It’s not really appropriate for a country half of whose defense budget could feed the whole of Africa to be making such statements,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Russia’s Defence Ministry, which said the bombers had been accompanied by two other Russian military planes, did not say if the planes were carrying missiles, how long they would stay for, or what their mission was.

Russia has used them in the past to flex its military muscles under the nose of the United States, delighting Venezuelan officials who have cast such flights as evidence it is able to defend itself, with allies’ help, from any attack.

Maduro frequently invokes the possibility of a U.S. invasion in the South American nation, a notion President Donald Trump’s administration denies.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza called Pompeo’s comments “not only disrespectful, but cynical,” highlighting the number of military bases the United States owns abroad.

“It’s strange the U.S. government questions our right to cooperate on defense and security with other countries, when @realDonaldTrump publicly threatens us with a military invasion,” Arreaza tweeted, referring to Trump’s Twitter handle.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not respond to a request for details on the bombers.

Maduro said the talks with Putin in Moscow this month yielded Russian investment in Venezuela’s oil and gold sectors.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told his Venezuelan counterpart at the time that such long-range flights provided pilots with excellent experience and helped maintain the planes’ combat readiness.

BLIGHT CHRISTMAS: Pilots of the Russian Tu-160 heavy strategic bomber aircraft are welcomed after landing in Maiquetia, Venezuela, December 10, 2018. Picture taken December 10, 2018. Russian Defense Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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