Venezuela’s Maduro cuts ties with US after Trump backs rival, Kremlin warns of dangerous actions

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president on Wednesday, winning the backing of Washington and many Latin American nations and prompting socialist Nicolas Maduro to break relations with the United States. (Reuters)
Updated 25 January 2019
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Venezuela’s Maduro cuts ties with US after Trump backs rival, Kremlin warns of dangerous actions

  • Russia has warned of bloodshed if the US intervenes further in Venezuela
  • Juan Guaido declared himself interim president with the backing of Donald Trump

MOSCOW/BRUSSELS: Russia accused the US on Thursday of trying to usurp power in Venezuela and warned against military intervention, putting it at odds with Washington and the EU which backed protests against one of Moscow’s closest allies.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim leader on Wednesday, winning the support of Washington and parts of Latin America. That prompted socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who has led the oil-rich nation since 2013, to sever diplomatic ties with the US. 

The prospect of Maduro being ousted is a geopolitical and economic headache for Moscow which, alongside China, has become a creditor of last resort for Caracas, lending it billions of dollars as its economy implodes. Moscow has also helped its military and oil industry and provided wheat.

Russia on Thursday accused Washington of stoking street protests and called Maduro the legitimate president.

“We consider the attempt to usurp sovereign authority in Venezuela to contradict and violate the basis and principles of international law,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said an outside military intervention could have “catastrophic consequences.”

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan offered support for Maduro too. “My brother Maduro! Stand tall, we stand by you!” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, writing on Twitter, quoted Erdogan as saying. China also said it supported efforts to protect Venezuela’s independence and stability.

The EU, which has imposed sanctions on Venezuela and boycotted Maduro’s swearing-in for a second term earlier this month, took a more nuanced tack.

Although it stopped short of following Washington and recognizing Guaido as interim president, it appealed for him to be protected and appeared to support calls for a peaceful transition of power away from Maduro.

“The people of Venezuela have massively called for democracy and the possibility to freely determine their own destiny. These voices cannot be ignored,” the 28-nation bloc said.

The biggest group in the European Parliament, the center-right European People’s Party, said it recognized Guaido as interim president and would call on the whole Parliament to do so next week as a senior lawmaker urged Maduro to quit.

French President Emmanuel Macron saluted Venezuelans marching for freedom. Germany, Switzerland and Portugal called for free elections, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told Guaido he supported the Venezuelan Parliament.

Britain said Maduro’s 2018 election was neither free nor fair and expressed support for Guaido.

There was nervousness about how far the EU could go however.

“The problem is that we can’t recognize somebody who was not elected democratically,” said one EU diplomat. “That would create a dangerous precedent for any other person who would want to proclaim themselves the president of something.”


Mueller Report: Russia did attempt to meddle in 2016 US election, no evidence of US coordination

Updated 14 min 14 sec ago
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Mueller Report: Russia did attempt to meddle in 2016 US election, no evidence of US coordination

WASHINGTON: US Attorney General William Barr said on Thursday that the Mueller Report confirms the Russian government sought to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election, but that no evidence was found that any American conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.

While Mueller drew no conclusion about whether President Donald Trump had obstructed justice in the investigation, Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein personally had concluded that while Trump was "frustrated and angry" about the Mueller probe, nothing the president did rose to the level of an "obstruction-of-justice offense," Barr said

Mueller's report examined 10 episodes pertaining to Trump and obstruction.

Barr said the president did not exert executive privilege to withhold anything in the report. And he said the president's personal attorney had requested and gotten a chance to review the report before its public release.

The Justice Department was to release a redacted version of the special counsel's report later Thursday on Russian election interference and the Trump campaign, opening up months, if not years, of fights over what the document means in a deeply divided country.