- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Leading Venezuelan officials mocked opposition critics and shrugged off Trump administration criticism over the recent arrival in Caracas of two Russian supersonic nuclear-capable bombers, a symbol of Moscow’s support in the face of bitter feuding with the U.S.

On Wednesday, Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello — a key ally of socialist President Nicolas Maduro who was placed on the Treasury Department’s sanctions blacklist in September — dismissed domestic criticism of the Russian fly-by.

“Oh, those poor opposition leaders, who called for military intervention in Venezuela yesterday,” Mr. Cabello wrote on Twitter. “Multinational armed forces were invited every day for an incursion here. But a sudden visit courtesy of Russia’s aviation and [everyone] went completely off their rocker.”

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter that the mission from Russia to Venezuela amounted to “two corrupt governments squandering public funds.”

On Monday, two Tu-160 bombers landed outside Caracas at Maiquetia airport after a roughly 6,200-mile flight from Russia. The upgraded warplane can fly at twice the speed of sound, participated in Russia’s campaign in Syria, and is capable of carrying cruise missiles that can strike targets as far as 3,410 miles away.

Russian defense officials did comment on whether the bombers that flew to Caracas were carrying missiles.

The mission follows Mr. Maduro’s visit to Moscow last week seeking Kremlin political and economic support as the Caracas regime struggles with financial collapse. Russia is a major political ally of Venezuela, which has become increasingly isolated and is under a growing list of sanctions led by the U.S. and the European Union.

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