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U.S.: Venezuelan fighter jet "aggressively shadowed" American Navy plane

United States Southern Command image of the Venezuelan fighter jet.
An image of the Russian-made SU-30 Flanker. Photo: United States Southern Command

The United States Southern Command criticized Russia as it released images Sunday of a Venezuelan fighter jet it said "aggressively shadowed" a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft flying over the Caribbean last week.

Details: The Russian-made SU-30 Flanker approached the U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries II "at an unsafe distance" in international airspace and in an "unprofessional manner" on Friday, the United States Southern Command said in a statement.

"This action demonstrates Russia’s irresponsible military support to [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro's illegitimate regime & underscores Maduro’s recklessness & irresponsible behavior, which undermines int’l rule of law & efforts to counter illicit trafficking."
— United States Southern Command statement

The other side: Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said the American plane entered Venezuelan airspace without earlier notification, violating international rules and endangering commercial flights from the country’s main airport, according to the Washington Post.

The big picture: The incident comes amid a months-long power struggle between Maduro and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has the support of the U.S. — which has imposed sanctions on the country in an attempt to pressure Maduro to step down.

Go deeper: In oil-rich Venezuela, fuel shortages spark man-made famines