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Embattled Venezuelan President Thanks Putin For ‘Political, Diplomatic Support’


Russian Preident Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 3.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who is facing international isolation amid unrest in the Latin American country, has thanked his Russian counterpart for backing him.

"Thank you for your support, both political and diplomatic, in a rough patch we are going through," the embattled president said at the start of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on October 4.

Maduro also hailed Russian wheat deliveries, saying they "helped to ensure stable consumption" in his country.

Putin said that "Venezuela is going through uneasy times" and credited Maduro for "succeeding in establishing some contact" with the opposition.

In a Twitter post, Maduro said he had an "extraordinary" working meeting with the Russian president, "strengthening ties of cooperation."

Venezuela, which has the biggest oil reserves in the world, has been beset by political unrest for months, with Maduro's government being accused by protesters at home and Western governments of becoming increasingly authoritarian.

Food Shortages, Inflation

Amid a fourth straight year of recession, millions of Venezuelans are suffering food shortages and rampant inflation.

The country's opposition insists that any solution to the country's political and economic crisis requires Maduro to step down, but the socialist president has shown no sign of ceding power.

Venezuela has had friendly relations with Russia under the late Socialist leader Hugo Chavez and his successor Maduro, both of them foes of the United States.

Venezuela became the largest external source of crude oil for Russian state giant Rosneft a few years ago, and Rosneft has provided support for Venezuela's state oil company after the United States imposed sanctions on Maduro in early August.

The Reuters news agency reported later in August, citing unnamed sources, that Maduro's government has increasingly turned to Russia for cash and credit.

Addressing the Russian Energy Week conference in Moscow earlier on October 4, Maduro said his government could discuss restructuring its $1 billion debt to Russia.

He said that Venezuela is paying its debts but indicated it would welcome relief through a restructuring.

Maduro also said he expected to discuss arms sales and expressed confidence that "even if we do not ask, we will be given even more support to boost Venezuela's defense capacity and sovereignty."

He said that cooperation with Russia had made Venezuela's armed forces "three times stronger over the past 15 years."

Maduro said ahead of his trip that he will visit Belarus on October 5 and hold talks with top officials on bilateral cooperation in housing construction, industrial development, and trade.

Bolivar Statue

The Venezuelan Embassy in Minsk said on October 3 that Maduro will attend the unveiling of a monument to Venezuelan national hero Simon Bolivar, a symbol of independence and defiance against European powers.

Maduro said that, after Belarus, he will travel to Turkey to chair an intergovernmental commission meeting focusing on "boosting bilateral cooperation in financial, energy, agro-industrial, and military spheres."

The United States has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Maduro's government in recent months, mainly in response to the creation of a powerful Constituent Assembly that was elected in a July vote the opposition labeled fraudulent.

More than 120 people have been killed in four months of protests against Maduro and his plans to create the assembly and rewrite Venezuela's constitution.

Many countries have declined to recognize the assembly, which Maduro insists has brought peace to the country of 30 million.

With reporting by AP, Interfax, TASS, dpa, EFE, Reuters, and Bloomberg
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