As the chaos in Venezuela continues, with two men claiming to be the rightful president, Russian private military contractors (PMCs) are allegedly already on the ground working for socialist Nicolas Maduro. Their mission is speculated to be executive protection for Maduro, according to a report from Reuters. Numerous governments, including the United States and Canada, have officially recognized Juan Guaido as the country’s new interim-president, however, Moscow seems to be backing the current socialist regime.

“The fact that U.S. policy towards Venezuela and other countries in the region is destructive is, in my opinion, self-evident. Open calls for a coup d’etat are known to everybody,” said Sergi Lavrov, Russia’s current Foreign Minister while speaking to reporters, according to Reuters.

The contractors are believed to be employed by the Wagner Group and are likely ex-Russian soldiers. The mercenary organization made the news in early 2018, when a clash between the group and the United States in Syria resulted in the Russian side suffering heavy casualties. The U.S. claimed self-defense after the group launched an assault on a Kurdish airbase, according to the BBC.

Fighting over who is the real president of Venezuela is expected to occur at the next meeting of the United Nations Security Council. According to Reuters, the U.S. asked for a special meeting of the 15-nation group this weekend, and many of the member-countries are likely to throw support behind Guaido. However, both Russia and China have made significant investments in Venezuela, and China appears to be backing Maduro as well.

“China supports efforts made by the Venezuelan government to protect the country’s sovereignty, independence and stability,” said Hua Chunying, China’s Foreign Military spokeswoman, during a briefing in Beijing on Thursday, according to Reuters. She adds, “I want to emphasize that outside sanctions or interference usually make the situation more complicated and are not helpful to resolving the actual problems.”

The debate surrounding who is the true president of Venezuela continues on the ground as well and Guaido has called for more demonstrations opposing the current regime. According to one report from the New York Times, Guiado asked his supporters to keep protesting “if they dare to kidnap me.”

The Maduro regime has a track record of human rights violations, which includes arbitrary detentions, extra judicial killings, and torturing those who are arrested. A recent article from Humans Rights Watch reported that members of the country’s military who were believed to be anti-Maduro have also been tortured.

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