Their source? An eccentric wannabe "Cossack" from the northern suburbs of Moscow
On January 25, Reuters released an article titled “Exclusive: Kremlin-linked contractors help guard Venezuela’s Maduro – sources“. The article speculates that Russian private military contractors were deployed in Venezuela to support the government of President Nicolás Maduro.
“Private 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, according to two people close to them.
A third source close to the Russian contractors also told Reuters there was a contingent of them in Venezuela, but could not say when they arrived or what their role was.
Yevgeny Shabayev, leader of a local chapter of a paramilitary group of Cossacks with ties to Russian military contractors, said he had heard the number of Russian contractors in Venezuela may be about 400.
But the other sources spoke of small groups.
Citing contacts in a Russian state security structure, Shabayev said the contingent flew to Venezuela at the start of this week, a day or two before opposition protests started.
He said they set off in two chartered aircraft for Havana, Cuba, from where they transferred onto regular commercial flights to Venezuela. The Cuban government, a close ally of Venezuela’s ruling socialists for the last two decades, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Support Russia Insider - Go Ad-Free!
The contractors’ task in Venezuela was to protect Maduro from any attempt by opposition sympathizers in his own security forces to detain him, Shabayev said.
“Our people are there directly for his protection,” he said.”
From this quote it becomes clear that the only real source of Reuters’ data is claims by Shabayev. Reuters described him as the “leader of a local chapter of a paramilitary group of Cossacks”. This “local chapter” is the cossacks association “Khorvino”. Khorvino is a small district in the Northern Administrative Okrug [region] of Moscow. Informed Russian sources describe Shabayev as a local “urban madman”, who became relatively known in the media for his attempts to speculate on the topic of the so-called private military company Wagner.
Screen grab from an interview Yevgeny Shabayev gave the US government-run Radio Free Europe in 2018
The Russian Foreign Ministry also denounced rumors about the deployment of “Russian mercenaries” in Venezuela.
In fact, these rumors are a part of the ongoing media campaign designed to demonize the Maduro government and to show “Russian meddling” in its affairs while in fact the US is pushing a regime change agenda in the country. Mainstream media outlets also provide a false data about the situation in Venezuela claiming that almost “entire country” supports the US-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido. This is untrue. Furthermore, the Armed Forces openly support Maduro. On February 10-15, the country’s military will hold drills repelling a simulated invasion and enhancing their skills in defending the territories, coast and waterways.
Source: South Front
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