Moscow : Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday accused the US and its allies of actively attempting to topple the Venezuelan government through what they described as illegal economic sanctions.
Lavrov’s criticism came amid a deepening political crisis in the South American country, where a self-proclaimed interim President, opposition leader Juan Guaido, has been endorsed by the US and a slew of other countries in the region, further embattling the incumbent President, Nicolás Maduro, who retains Russia’s backing.
Maduro has so far resisted international pressure to slate fresh elections to solve the crisis.
“The US and its closest allies are creating the most serious obstacles to the possibility of international assistance in resolving the crisis in Venezuela,” Lavrov told a Moscow press conference. He said Russia would do everything in its power to back what he described as Maduro’s legitimate authorities.
Russia’s top diplomat denounced sanctions that the US on Monday levelled against Petroleum of Venezuela, the state-owned oil and natural gas company, insisting such actions would simply aggravate the socio-economic crisis that engulfed the Latin American nation.
Moscow has long been an economic ally of Maduro’s government and has issued several loans to the crisis-riddled country.
However, Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak told the state media that Caracas could have issues paying back its debt owed to Moscow in the future.
He said Venezuela had a debt of around $3 billion, which it was to repay in twice-yearly instalments worth around $100 million.
Venezuela, an oil-rich country that has been hammered by lower global oil prices and economic sanctions imposed by the US, has been in recession for nearly all of Maduro’s time in office. He took over after his predecessor Hugo Chavez’s death in 2013.
The UN also addressed the crisis on Tuesday, urging the international community to contribute towards the organization’s 2019 Children’s Fund which had earmarked $70 million for Venezuelan children affected by the deep economic and political crises.
Guaido declared himself interim President on January 23 and quickly gained the support of US President Donald Trump.
The EU has also ramped up its pressure on Maduro to call transparent elections or face fresh consequences, such as the possibility that Brussels, too, would recognize Guaido’s claim.
According to the UN, at least 40 people died and 850 others were arrested amid mass protests against Maduro.