WASHINGTON, March 29 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's national security adviser warned Russia on Friday about its military presence in Venezuela, saying any move to establish or expand operations there would be considered a "direct threat" to international peace.
"We strongly caution actors external to the Western Hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela, or elsewhere in the Hemisphere, with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations," White House national security adviser John Bolton said in a statement.
"We will consider such provocative actions as a direct threat to international peace and security in the region," Bolton added.
Russia said on Thursday it had sent "specialists" to Venezuela under a military cooperation deal but insisted they posed no threat to regional stability, brushing aside a call by Trump for Moscow to remove all military personnel from the country.
Trump said on Wednesday that "all options" were open to make Russia pull troops out of Venezuela after two Russian air force planes landed outside Caracas on Saturday carrying nearly 100 Russian troops, according to media reports.
The United States recognized the country's opposition leader, Juan Guaido, the leader of the national assembly, as interim president earlier this year following disputed elections.
Washington has declared President Nicolas Maduro's government illegitimate and has launched a campaign to have Guaido recognized as the interim leader. Russia has emerged as a key backer of Maduro's government.
Bolton's statement condemned Maduro's "use of foreign military personnel in his attempt to remain in power, including the introduction of Russian military personnel and equipment into Venezuela."
"Maduro will only use this military support to further repress the people of Venezuela; perpetuate the economic crisis that has destroyed Venezuela's economy; and endanger regional stability," he said. (Reporting by Tim Ahmann; Editing by David Alexander and Phil Berlowitz)
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