“We know that some elements and military units of the (Venezuelan) Bolivarian military forces have been mobilized towards the border (between Colombia and Venezuela) with the support of Russia,” Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano said.
Citing intelligence sources, Molano denounced Russian “foreign interference” in this region, which has witnessed since the beginning of January a bloody confrontation between armed groups, one of which is the National Liberation Army backed by Caracas, according to the Colombian authorities.
In a statement published Friday, the Russian embassy in Colombia expressed its “skepticism” of these “irresponsible” statements. It deplored the “repeated attempts” by the Colombian government “to accuse the Russian Federation (…) of supposed interference in Colombia’s internal affairs.”
The Russian mission added that what was issued by Colombia were “irresponsible statements by a member of the government”, criticizing Minister Molano for his “tireless pursuit” to find “imaginary” enemies and making statements “without any verification”.
Commenting on the issue, Colombian President Ivan Duque told reporters that “it is important that we continue to maintain the spirit of cooperation and frankness, and of course keep this within the appropriate level of diplomatic dialogue.”
“Without any doubt, I think it will allow us to speak to the Russian diplomatic representation in Colombia to understand (the nature) of the military presence that is being secured in Venezuela, and why having some of the equipment they have in this country is so important,” Duque added.
Analysts in Bogota said that this possible Russian activity on the border is related to the crisis in Ukraine, at a time when Vladimir Putin warned that he might send troops to the Caribbean or to Venezuela for training, knowing that Moscow recently encouraged negotiations between the “National Liberation Army” and the government. Colombian.
Since the beginning of January, the National Liberation Army, a faction influenced by Che Guevara’s revolutionary ideas, has been facing dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) who reject the 2016 peace agreement with the Marxist armed group, to control the territory of the Arauca region, which is separated by a river from Venezuela.
Due to this geographical proximity, the Arauca region witnesses a lot of trafficking and smuggling operations and includes an important export route for drugs manufactured in Colombia.
The violence between these gangs, mainly targeted killings, resulted in about 70 deaths in one month. Violence is also raging in neighboring Venezuela, where the two groups, according to Bogota, have rear bases. But the government of Nicolas Maduro, an ally of Moscow, rejects these accusations.
Bogota, one of the main allies of the United States in Latin America, and Caracas severed diplomatic relations after conservative President Ivan Duque came to power in August 2018.
In May 2021, while the country was witnessing unprecedented anti-government demonstrations, Colombia accused Russia of being linked to cyber attacks targeting official websites. The Russian embassy responded that it was surprised by these “completely baseless” accusations.