Russia denies reporting Washington withdraws its troops from Venezuela

The Kremlin denied on Tuesday that it had informed Washington of withdrawing most of its troops in Venezuela to support President Nicolas Maduro, contrary to US President Donald Trump's assertion on Monday.

"It seemed to be an indirect reference to some news reports because there was no official letter from Russia and there could be no (such) message," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

He stressed that Russian military experts are still in Venezuela "are working on the maintenance of equipment previously provided."

"This operation is in accordance with a plan, and we do not know what it means: withdraw their elements," he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, for his part, expressed "shock" at the US president's glee. "It is clear that (Trump) read the article in the Wall Street Journal," RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying.

This article refers to the withdrawal of Russian experts from Venezuela.

"I can not even imagine from which source this information comes that says we told the Americans to withdraw our experts, but that raises questions about the efficiency of the advisers who are relaying information to the president," Lavrov said.

"Russia told us that they withdrew most of their troops from Venezuela," Trump said on a state visit to Britain.

Tensions between the United States and Russia have deepened during the months-long crisis in Venezuela, where Washington threw its weight behind a campaign to topple Moscow-backed socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

In March Trump urged Russia to "leave" Venezuela after Moscow - in a major solidarity move with the isolated Maduro government - deployed about 100 troops on its territory.

The Russian military industrial complex Rostek denied information reported by the Wall Street Journal about reducing the number of military advisers to "a few dozen".

The newspaper quoted a source close to the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that about a thousand Russian troops were in Venezuela a few years ago.

"The number of elements has not changed for several years," Rostek said in a statement.

"Professional technicians regularly go to Venezuela to repair and maintain the equipment," she said.

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