“Russia has informed us that they have removed most of their people from Venezuela,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
The president’s message confirms an anonymously sourced report published in The Wall Street Journal on June 2. A Russian state defense contractor, Rostec, reduced the number of its employees in Venezuela to a few dozen from 1,000, according to the source.
The withdrawal is associated with the lack of new contracts from the regime of illegitimate socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro. Rostec is also convinced that the regime no longer has the cash to pay for the services, according to the Journal’s sources.
The withdrawal is a blow to Maduro, since Russia was one of just a handful of nations that continued to back the socialist regime after Venezuela’s national assembly declared the dictator a usurper and elevated Juan Guaidó to the interim presidency. More than 50 nations, including the United States, recognize Guaidó as the legitimate leader.
The drawdown by Rostec is also a sign that U.S. sanctions are working around the world. Maduro’s regime has been crippled by increasing U.S. sanctions, cutting off its ability to pay Rostec. In the meantime, an increasingly difficult economic situation in Russia, linked in part to the U.S. sanctions on Moscow, contributed to Rostec’s strategic decision to pull out of the region.
Venezuela hasn’t paid for Rostec’s services for months, according to a source. The last contract Rostec fulfilled was for the construction for a helicopter training center for military helicopters in March.
Rostec denied the Journal’s report.
President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have both blamed Russia for Maduro’s reluctance to step down. Pompeo alleged in May that Russia instructed Maduro to not step down during an attempt to oust him.
“We literally had Nicolás Maduro getting prepared to get on this airplane and head out of the country before he was stopped, stopped really at the direction of the Russians,” Pompeo said at a gala in Washington on May 1.
Guaidó vowed to press ahead with street protests after talks with government officials hosted by Norway ended on May 29, without progress toward resolving Venezuela’s political crisis.
In Oslo, Guaidó again called on Maduro to step down so that new elections can be called. Maduro has repeatedly refused to step down.
“There was no immediate agreement, so the chance that we have today is to remain in the streets,” Guaidó told Fox Business Network, speaking via an interpreter. “We want to reach a solution to the conflict.”
Norway’s foreign ministry said on May 29 that envoys for both parties had shown a “willingness” to make some headway.
“The parties have demonstrated their willingness to move forward in the search for an agreed-upon and constitutional solution for the country, which includes political, economic and electoral matters,” the foreign ministry said.
In remarks on national television, Maduro said the regime had prepared the ground for the Norway mediation with months of secret talks. Sources in Guaidó’s government have also said there have been contacts with elements of the Maduro regime for months, particularly in the run-up to the abortive April 30 military uprising.
“The only way forward is dialogue,” Maduro said. “We want a peace deal.”
Reuters contributed to this report.