Putin vows ‘support’ as Venezuela’s Maduro seeks financial aid

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the talks with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro during meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. (AP)
Updated 05 December 2018
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Putin vows ‘support’ as Venezuela’s Maduro seeks financial aid

  • Hit by low oil prices, mismanagement and the impact of US sanctions, Venezuela is in freefall and Maduro is seeking support from allies
  • Maduro, who took over following the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, has come under strong pressure from Trump’s administration, which calls him a “dictator”

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday voiced support for Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro as he visited Moscow seeking financial assistance for the socialist country’s collapsing economy.
Putin at a meeting at his residence outside Moscow told Maduro “we support your efforts to achieve mutual understanding in society and all your actions aimed at normalizing relations with the opposition.”
Putin added that “naturally we condemn any actions that are clearly terrorist in nature, any attempts to change the situation by force.”
Hit by low oil prices, mismanagement and the impact of US sanctions, Venezuela is in freefall and Maduro is seeking support from allies after winning a second presidential term this year.
Maduro, who took over following the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, has come under strong pressure from US President Donald Trump’s administration, which calls him a “dictator.”
While he won the May elections, most of the international community did not recognize the results. Formally, Maduro’s second mandate only begins in January next year.
Maduro told Putin he was sure their talks would bring “good news for cooperation between our countries and for the economies of our countries.”
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said ahead of the meeting that Maduro had traveled to Moscow specifically to ask Russia — itself the target of US sanctions — for financial assistance.
“The talks will focus on the help that the Venezuelan leadership needs,” Peskov told reporters, declining to be more specific on how much Russia could lend.
He said the economic situation in the Latin American country remained difficult but noted “signs of improving dynamics.”
Venezuela, which has been rocked by deadly protests and economic chaos, is counting on Russian support amid growing international isolation.
Food and medicine shortages have sparked an exodus of some two million people. The International Monetary Fund projects hyperinflation of 10 million percent next year.
After talks last year between Maduro and Putin, Russia, Venezuela’s major creditor, agreed to restructure $3.15 billion of debt from a loan taken out by Caracas in 2011 to finance the purchase of Russian arms.
Largely isolated from the international community, Maduro is now trying to shore up support from his allies.
He was visiting Moscow after hosting his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Caracas.
Russia and Venezuela enjoy a long history of ties and Maduro’s predecessor Chavez, known for his passionate tirades against the United States, was a welcome guest at the Kremlin.


Turkish banker released from US prison

Updated 25 sec ago
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Turkish banker released from US prison

  • Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, deputy director general of Turkish lender Halkbank, was arrested in March 2017 and convicted the following year on five counts of bank fraud and conspiracy following a five-week trial in New York
  • Erdogan has repeatedly rejected the allegations, saying Turkey did not violate the US embargo on Iran and that political rivals were behind the case

NEW YORK: A Turkish banker convicted for plotting to help Iran evade American sanctions on Iranian oil proceeds has been released from US prison, according to his lawyer and prison officials.
Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, deputy director general of Turkish lender Halkbank, was arrested in March 2017 and convicted the following year on five counts of bank fraud and conspiracy following a five-week trial in New York.
He was handed over to immigration police on Friday pending his deportation to Turkey, his lawyer Victor Rocco told AFP. Prison authorities confirmed his release.
Atilla claimed that he had only played a minor role in the scheme and acted as executor of instructions by the bank’s director general — an argument accepted by the court.
Prosecutors had wanted a 20-year sentence for the banker.
His conviction hinged on the testimony of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was arrested by US authorities in 2016 after jetting to Florida with his pop-star wife and child on a family holiday to Disney World.
Zarrab, 34, initially pleaded not guilty then flipped, becoming a US government witness after admitting being involved in the multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme to subvert US economic sanctions against Iran.
His testimony identified Atilla as a key organizer in the scheme, but also implicated former Turkish ministers and even President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Testifying in court last November, Zarrab said he was told that Erdogan, as prime minister in 2012, and treasury minister Ali Babacan gave “instructions” to two public banks to take part in the scheme.
Erdogan has repeatedly rejected the allegations, saying Turkey did not violate the US embargo on Iran and that political rivals were behind the case.
Zarrab’s sentence is not known, as many of the documents in his case have remained confidential.