Russia has told the United States that two of their strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons will leave Venezuela on Friday, the White House said, ending a deployment that angered Washington.
“We have spoken with representatives of Russia and have been informed that their military aircraft, which landed in Venezuela, will be leaving on Friday and going back to Russia,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
In an emailed statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that the bombers, which became the subject of dispute between Russian and U.S. officials earlier this week, would return home Friday.
“We have spoken with representatives of Russia and have been informed that their military aircraft, which landed in Venezuela, will be leaving on Friday and going back to Russia, Sanders said.
Russia's deployment included two Tu-160 nuclear-capable supersonic bombers, as well as a heavy-lift An-124 Ruslan cargo plane and an Il-62 passenger plane.
The return of the bombers comes after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a public statement sharply criticizing the corrupt governments of both Russia and Venezuela, and calling the deployment a waste of money.
#Russia's government has sent bombers halfway around the world to #Venezuela. The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer, the secretary tweeted on Monday.
Russian and Venezuelan officials fired back in their own statements, attacking Pompeo and accusing the U.S. of threatening Venezuela's sovereignty.
It’s outrageous that the US gov’t questions our sovereign right to defense and security cooperation with other countries when @realDonaldTrump has threatened us publicly with a military intervention. If you want to cooperate, lift your sanctions against Venezuela,” Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, wrote on Twitter.
A spokesman for the Kremlin also criticized Pompeo's statements, while taking aim at the U.S.'s sizable defense budget.
“As for the idea that we are squandering money, we do not agree. It’s not really appropriate for a country half of whose defense budget could feed the whole of Africa to be making such statements,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters.