Putin Backs Maduro, As Kremlin Critics Cheer U.S. Support For Venezuela’s Opposition

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov resorted to his trademark sarcasm when asked by reporters about the Trump administration’s decision to recognize an opposition politician as Venezuela’s lawful leader, in place of sitting President Nicolás Maduro.

In its “paranoid anxiety” about interference in its own elections, the United States is once again trying to decide the fate of another country, Lavrov said during televised remarks during a visit to Algeria on Thursday. “You don’t even have to set up a Mueller investigation.”

But if the U.S. decisively took sides in Venezuela’s escalating political crisis this week, Russia wasn’t sitting idly by. On Thursday evening, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Maduro, expressing Russia’s continuing support and condemning “destructive external interference.”

The Kremlin is deeply invested in the survival of Maduro’s regime, having sunk both political and financial capital into Venezuela. Russia has propped up the country’s rulers with at least $17 billion in loans and credit lines since 2006, often taking oil assets in return, according to an investigation by Reuters.

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