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Pompeo Cautions Russia Over Reports Of Military Mission In Venezuela

An airplane with the Russian flag is seen at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas on March 24.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Moscow's dispatch of military personnel to Venezuela is increasing tensions there and warned that Washington will not "stand idly by."

U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said Pompeo called Lavrov on March 25 and said "the United States and regional countries will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela."

Pompeo's call came after a Venezuelan official said Russian aircraft arrived in Caracas over the weekend as part of ongoing military cooperation. Reports that two Russian Air Force planes arrived could not be independently confirmed. Russia supports Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

"The continued insertion of Russian military personnel to support the illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela risks prolonging the suffering of the Venezuelan people, who overwhelmingly support interim President Juan Guaido," he said.

The United States and dozens of other countries support Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido, who says Maduro's reelection last year was rigged.

Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Lavrov had complained of "attempts by Washington to organize a coup d'etat in Venezuela" during the telephone conversation with Pompeo.

The statement said such moves "constitute violations of the UN charter and undisguised interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state."

With reporting by AP, dpa, and AFP