The US, along with a host of other Western allies, have publicly put its weight behind opposition leader Juan Guaido and called for president Nicolas Maduro to step aside. President Maduro was re-elected as president earlier this year but the election was condemned by the US, EU and various other Western powers due to irregularities over scheduling. Russia, China and Syria were among the countries to recognise the result of the vote, which saw the lowest voter turnout in the country’s modern history.
This month the US joined around 20 other countries in calling for Mr Maduro to step aside. They recognise Mr Guaido as interim president.
The US has responded to the ongoing crisis by introducing sanctions on state-run oil company PVDSA.
The Kremlin has now warned these sanctions on amounted to illegal and open interference in the Latin American country’s domestic affairs.
Moscow is assessing the impact on Russia of the sanctions and intends to use all legal mechanisms at its disposable to protect Russia’s interests in Venezuela in light of the sanctions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said
Russia has accused Washington of trying to usurp power in Venezuela and warned against military intervention.
White House national security adviser John Bolton said on Monday the new measures would cost Maduro $11 billion in lost export proceeds over the next year and block him from accessing PDVSA assets worth $7 billion.
Russia, a close ally of Venezuela, has acted as a lender of last resort for Caracas, with the government and Rosneft handing Venezuela at least $17 billion in loans and credit lines since 2006.
Rosneft, Russia’s biggest oil producer, operates in Venezuela and has issued loans to PDVSA, backed by oil supplies.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions could be avoided if Mr Guaido is given full power.
He said: “The path to sanctions relief for PDVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the interim president or a subsequent democratically elected government who is committed to taking concrete and meaningful actions to combat corruption.
“If the people in Venezuela want to continue to sell us oil, as long as that money goes into blocked accounts, we’ll continue to take it. Otherwise we will not be buying it.”
It has also been revealed at least 40 people are believed to have been killed in Venezuela’s recent violence, including 26 shot by pro-government forces, five killed in house raids and 11 during looting, UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said today.
He said more than 850 people were detained between January 21 and 26, including 77 children, some as young as 12.
On January 23, 696 people were detained across the country, the highest daily number of detentions in Venezuela in 20 years.