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Lavrov to meet with Venezuelan counterpart Sunday to discuss coup attempt in Caracas

The meeting will take place ahead of Lavrov’s contacts with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Alexander Shcherbak/TASS
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
© Alexander Shcherbak/TASS

MOSCOW, May 5. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with his visiting Venezuelan counterpart Jorge Arreaza in Moscow on Sunday to discuss the opposition’s attempt to seize power in that Latin American country on April 30. The meeting will take place ahead of Lavrov’s contacts with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, which are also expected to focus on Venezuela.

"There will be an exchange of opinion on the situation inside and around Venezuela in connection with the government coup attempt, the outlook for a political and diplomatic settlement of differences within the framework of the Venezuelan constitution, and various options of international mediatory efforts to promote a dialogue between the government and the opposition," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in connection with the forthcoming negotiations. "Certain steps will be discussed for expanding comprehensive Russian-Venezuelan partnership in the international scene, stepping up efforts by an informal group of countries for the protection of goals and principles enshrined in the UN Charter and also for resisting illegal, unilaterally imposed sanctions that worsen the social and economic situation in the country."

Venezuelan crisis

On January 23, Venezuelan opposition figurehead Juan Guaido, whose appointment as parliamentary speaker had been annulled by the Supreme Court two days earlier, proclaimed himself as acting president. The United States hurried to recognize him as interim head of state later in the day. The Lima Group of countries (except for Mexico), the Organization of American States and a number of other countries followed suit. Maduro slammed the events as a government coup attempt and severed diplomatic relations with the US. Russia, Belarus, Bolivia, Iran, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Syria and Turkey came out in Maduro’s support.

On February 23, the opposition tried to bring to Venezuela across the border with Brazil and Colombia what it claimed was a relief aid cargo. The Venezuelan authorities accused the opponents of a provocation. Clashes occurred on the border but no major demonstrations against Maduro followed.

The political standoff between the legitimate authorities and the opposition in Venezuela continued for several months. Guaido kept saying that he was interim president. The situation had remained calm by and large without any major clashes taking place until April 30. On Tuesday, Guaido tweeted a video urging the military to take to the streets to put an end to what he called "usurpation."

Opposition supporters sneaked onto the premises of the Francisco de Miranda airbase in Caracas. Protesters clashed with police and the National Guard at the Altamira road junction nearby. Several hundred were injured and four were killed. According to non-governmental organizations, no less than 240 protesters were detained over two days. The military refused to support Guaido. The government retained control of all military facilities.

Washington’s involvement

Immediately after Guaido’s April 30 tweet the United States launched a massive campaign in his support. Washington accused Russia of meddling in Venezuela. US national security adviser John Bolton said Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, Supreme Court Chairman Maikel Moreno and chief of the Presidential Guard Ivan Hernandez had allegedly agreed Maduro had to go. When it became clear that the coup failed, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told the CNN Maduro had reportedly been getting ready to leave the country but Russia allegedly persuaded him to change his mind.

On May 1, Lavrov and Pompeo talked by telephone at Washington’s initiative. Lavrov said the real meddler in Venezuela’s affairs was not Russia but the United States. He also warned that "further aggressive steps were fraught with the gravest consequences." Later Lavrov told the media that Washington’s allegations about Russia’s intervention were "untrue, to put it mildly."

Venezuela currently hosts a group of Russian military specialists. The United States demands their pullout. Moscow has said more than once that the Russian specialists’ task is maintenance of Russian military equipment and instruction of local personnel. The Russian embassy in Caracas has said the Russian military servicemen were not involved in last week’s events in Caracas in any way.

Lavrov and Pompeo will hold more discussions of the Venezuelan crisis when they meet in person at the ministerial level meeting of the Arctic Council in Rovaniemi, Finland on May 6-7.