Russia has secretly deployed about 400 elite mercenaries or military contractors to Venezuela, according to Lenta.ru.
"Russian contractors” are ex Russian soldiers which are usually made to resign their commission in the Russian army in order to be enlisted as “private contractors” to perform secret and "dirty" missions for the Kremlin.
They are then sent by the Kremlin to different areas in the world, from Ukraine to Syria, where they act as Russian soldiers, but unofficially and are not considered to be part of the official Russian armed forces.
Russia’s news agency quoted the head of the Committee of the All-Russian Officers’ Assembly, Yevgeny Shabaev on 25 January as saying that military contractors were urgently deploy to Venezuela.
“On the evening of January 21, a certain group of men were instructed to quickly recruit a group. They carried out orders from private military companies, ”explained Shabayev.
According to him, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro fears betrayal and therefore it was necessary to replace his personal protection with loyal people, which was done.
The report comes after Russia, which has backed Maduro’s socialist government with billions of dollars, said this week that it would stand by him after opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim head of state.
Maduro and Putin.
This was also confirmed by Reuters which reports a whole contingent of Russian troops in Venezuela.
According to Reuters, as many as 500 Russian military contractors who do secret missions for Russia flew into Venezuela in the past few days to beef up security for President Nicolas Maduro in the face of U.S.-backed opposition protests.
Russia’s Defence Ministry and Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not respond to requests for comment about the contractors. The Kremlin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We have no such information.”
The Russian contractors are associated with the so-called "Wagner group", whose members, mostly ex-service personnel, fought clandestinely in support of Russian forces in Syria and Ukraine.
So there is no question that there is a significant Russian military presence in Venezuela at the moment, and that it's there to prop up Maduro, and if the situation arises, to intervene on the side of the Maduro regime. Whether that means “protecting” Maduro or carrying out military raids and attacks on the Venezuelan opposition, his enemies, remains to be seen.