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BY: Bill Gertz
Russia has dispatched several warships, including one of its newer missile frigates, to Cuba in a bid to bolster the floundering regime of Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro, according to a senior administration official.
Platform - Western - Hemisphere - Look - Official
"Anytime any Russian military platform arrives in the Western Hemisphere, we're taking a very close look at it," the official told the Washington Free Beacon.
U.S. intelligence agencies first identified the small Russian naval task force headed by the guided missile frigate Admiral Gorshkov in the eastern Pacific around June 11 and followed the warships through the Panama Canal.
Ships - Havana - Harbor - Monday - Official
The ships showed up in Havana harbor Monday and the official said it may conduct a passage near Venezuela, or make port there after it leaves Cuban waters. Support vessels included the logistics vessel Elbrus, medium sea tanker Kama, and rescue tug Nikolai Chiker, according to the Russian Navy.
The official said the Gorshkov is one of the newer Russian warships but noted that "it's probably lucky it made it all the way across the Pacific Ocean."
Dispatch - Group - Signal - Havana - Time
The dispatch of the naval group is "sending a signal by pulling into Havana at the same time that everything is going on in Venezuela."
"There's no surprise that they would do that intentionally to kind of remind us they perceive they have some sort of leverage in the region," he said.
Russian - Air - Force - Il-62 - Transport
Additionally, a Russian Air Force Il-62 transport brought in technicians to work on Russian military equipment used by the Venezuelans.
"That sends a signal in its own right," the official said. "You've got millions of people starving in Venezuela. You've got no medicine, you've got no electricity, you've got gas shortages, lines for miles, and you're paying the Russians to come in and fix really old hardware, money that certainly should be used for humanitarian aid."
Brought - Personnel - Equipment
The Il-62 brought both military personnel and equipment but...
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