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Russian planes go home after controversial Venezuela wargames

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Caracas (AFP)

Two Russian bombers flew back to Moscow from Caracas early Friday after taking part in joint military exercises with Venezuela that sparked a row with Washington and regional neighbors.

"With the takeoff of the Tu160 'White Swans' we say goodbye to our Russian Federation friends," Venezuela's air force said on Twitter.

It said the exercises provide "a guarantee of peace."

Russia last Monday sent the two Tupolev-160 long-range bombers and about 100 air force personnel to Caracas -- generating tensions with the US and Colombia, countries Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro regularly accuses of plotting to assassinate him.

The air force tweet was accompanied by a video showing one of the huge white bombers taking off from Caracas' Maiquetia airport.

"Thanks to the Russian Federation, we are continuing to build a productive and vigorous team of brotherhood and effective cooperation. To victory always! We will win!" Venezuela's Defense Minister, General Vlarimir Padrino Lopez, said in another tweet confirming the bombers' departure.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the exercises, drawing ire from the Kremlim which branded his response "undiplomatic."

Colombia's President Ivan Duque called the exercises "unfriendly".

The Organization of American States branded the mission "harmful to Venezuelan sovereignty," adding it violated the crisis-hit South American country's constitution because it had not been authorized by its National Assembly.

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