Russian Foreign Minister Holds Talks With Venezuelan President Amid U.S. Sanctions Warning

Russia’s foreign minister is visiting Venezuela in a show of support for Nicolas Maduro, as Moscow tries to bolster the South American country’s president amid a collapsing economy and the threat of more U.S. sanctions.

Sergei Lavrov’s visit on February 7 followed suggestions from the U.S. State Department that Washington might expand Venezuela-targeted sanctions to include Russian oil companies that have helped Maduro.

Lavrov met earlier in the day with his Venezuelan counterpart, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, and was scheduled to hold talks Maduro later.

Earlier in the week, U.S. President Donald Trump hosted opposition leader Juan Guaido at the White House. Guaido is recognized by nearly five dozen countries as Venezuela’s rightful president.

Lavrov arrived in Caracas on February 6, the same day that the U.S. special representative to Venezuela warned that Russia’s support for Maduro’s government may “no longer be cost free.”

“The rules about sanctions can always change,” Elliott Abrams told reporters in Washington. “The licenses that are given can be withheld; those that are withheld can be given.”

Existing U.S. sanctions include exceptions that allow U.S. companies like Chevron to continue buying Venezuelan oil.

Venezuela’s once-bustling economy has all but collapsed, fueling inflation that has neared 10,000 percent. According to the UN, millions have fled the country looking for food and employment.

With reporting by Reuters
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