“Pawns In Someone Else’s Dirty Game”: Russia’s Lavrov Slams US Interference In Venezuela

updateCommenting on Washington’s claim that Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is the legitimate president,  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called out what Moscow sees as rank hypocrisy, saying:

The US, which is paranoid about somebody interfering in their elections, even though they have no proof of that, themselves are trying to rule the fates of other peoples. What they actually do is interfere in their internal affairs. There is no need for [US special counsel Robert] Mueller to determine that.

He further noted that the speed of events and unrest inside Venezuela suggests foreign powers are ultimately pulling the strings, calling attempts to foster a coup “someone else’s dirty game”. He said:

We hope the Venezuelan opposition prioritize national interests and call on them not to be pawns in someone else’s dirty game. 

In separate statements Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev questioned of the “quasi-coup” in oil-rich but cash poor and inflation gutted Venezuela: “How would the American people feel if, say, the Speaker of the House declared herself president as a result of the shutdown?”

While countries like China, Turkey, and Syria have declared intentions to stick by Maduro, little has as yet be heard in terms of a consistent position from EU countries, which given their current silence will likely toe the US line.

But already, UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt has made a statement saying it’s “clear” that Maduro is “not the legitimate leader of Venezuela”.

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Russia has dismissed the political crisis engulfing Venezuela as an attempted coup while expressing concern over the role of external states and the potential for foreign military intervention, calling Juan Guaido’s move to declare himself president illegal.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday, “We are very concerned by statements that don’t rule out some kind of external intervention,” as cited by Bloomberg. “We consider such intervention unacceptable,” Peskov added while describing the internal unrest spilling into the streets after the catalyst of Monday’s failed military revolt of 27 officers in an opposition neighborhood of Caracas an “attempt to usurp power”.

Prior meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on December 5, 2018. Image source: AFP

This follows President Trump’s declaration that the US would only recognize the unelected head of the opposition-held National Assembly as “the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela.” A senior Trump administration official followed by saying “all options are on the table”.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said further in website statement that Washington’s joining a growing list of about a dozen other countries to recognize Guaido “is aimed at deepening the split in Venezuelan society, increasing the conflict on the streets, sharply destabilizing the internal political system and further escalation of the conflict.” And in words eerily similar to the brief international exchange of words over prior US action in places like Libya and Syria the ministry said that external armed intervention would be “fraught with catastrophic consequences.”

The foreign ministry further described that the situation “has reached a dangerous point” and called on the international community to engage in diplomacy and mediation between the Maduro government and opposition. 

And separately, a senior Russian official on Thursday warned the Trump administration against what he called the “catastrophic scenario” of military intervention in the region. “We warn against this,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said in an interview with International Affairs magazine, as cited in USA Today. “We believe that this would be a catastrophic scenario that would shake the foundations of the development model we see in the Latin American region.”

Wednesday clashes with police, image via Rafael Hernández

In early December of last year President Nicholas Maduro visited Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin at a time when tensions with both countries and Washington were soaring. The leaders discussed Russia’s offering to throw cash-strapped Venezuela a multi-billion dollar life-line despite Caracas in the past being unable to pay its debts.  During that trip, Maduro had called Russia a “brother country” with which Venezuela had “raised the flag for the creation of a multipolar and multicentric world.”

This meeting was followed by Russia briefly deploying two nuclear-capable “Blackjack” bombers to Venezuela as part of a joint training exercise meant to underscore the two countries’ growing military relations. 

Meanwhile Russia is not the only country to express fear of external meddling and an “illegal” coup attempt, but predictably Syria, Turkey, and China have also declared intentions to stick by Maduro while voicing that the Venezuelan people alone should decide their fate.