>> Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is getting help from the Kremlin in the latest international crisis to divide the US and Russia. Reuters has learned exclusively that private military contractors who do secret missions for Russia flew into Venezuela over the past few days to beef up security for Maduro.
Russia, which has backed Maduro's socialist government to the tune of billions of dollars, this week promised to stand by him after opposition leader Juan Guaidó, head of Venezuela's National Assembly, declared himself president. And he's got Washington's support.>>
> Maduro, on Friday, stood firm saying he will, quote, defeat a coup, referring to Guaidó and efforts by the US, Europe, and other Latin American nations to back the 35-year-old.
US diplomats were seen leaving the American embassy in Caracas Friday, with Maduro having broken off relations with Washington. Reuters correspondent Brian Ellsworth is in Caracas.>> The environment on the street is of a lot of excitement as the Venezuelans are for the first time believing that the end of this situation could be soon.
This country has been struggling with food shortages, medicine shortages, hyper inflation. The economic situation is really unsustainable.>> The US is seeking to hit Maduro where it hurts most by diverting funds for Venezuelan oil toward Guaidó.>> It's still really hard to say where the situation is going to go.
On the one hand, this is an absolutely unprecedented level of international support for the opposition. At the same time, Guaidó is in a very difficult situation. He could at any moment be arrested by the government for treason or for any number of charges. It's not even really evident where he is.
He's not openly walking around on the street. So in the meantime, the government seems to be simply waiting for this parallel administration to collapse, or to spend enough time not being able to do anything that it will simply fall under its own weight.
Another big disadvantage for Guaidó, leftist Maduro, who's been in power since 2013, has the country's powerful military in his corner.
As for extra security from the Kremlin, Russia's defense ministry did not respond to requests for comment, and a Kremlin spokesperson said, quote, we have no such information.