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Russia accuses US of political ‘blackmail’ after sanctions imposed on Venezuela FM

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, left, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin hold talks in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 10, 2016. (Mikhail Metzel/Tass/Abaca Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia has accused the United States of the “politics of blackmail” after Washington imposed sanctions on Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza as part of efforts to force embattled Moscow ally Nicolas Maduro to step down from the presidency.

“We exhort the United States to return to the realm of international law, end its politics of blackmail, and stop provoking tensions in Venezuela from abroad,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on April 26.

It added that “Washington has repeatedly displayed a categoric refusal to adopt the method of negotiation to resolve the situation.”

Washington and Moscow are facing off with increasingly vocal statements concerning activities in the South American nation.

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Russia, along with Iran, China, and Cuba, is among countries supporting Maduro in his tense battle for control of the Venezuelan government with opposition figure and self-declared interim President Juan Guaido, who is backed by Washington and more than 50 other countries.

Maduro, who took office in 2013, was sworn in for a second term in January following an election in May 2018 that was marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging, leading to mass street protests.

Under the new sanctions, Arreaza’s U.S. assets will be blocked and U.S. citizens will be prohibited from dealings with the top Venezuelan diplomat.

Also designated on April 26 was Judge Carol Padilla, who has ruled against Venezuelan opposition figures.

They join a growing list of Venezuelan officials designated to face U.S. sanctions.

“The United States will not stand by and watch as the illegitimate Maduro regime starves the Venezuelan people of their wealth, humanity and right to democracy,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on April 26.