CARACAS/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov met Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday to underline Moscow’s support for the leftist leader that has helped him stay in power despite intense Western pressure to quit.
Moscow has acted as a lender of last resort for Venezuela, with the government and oil giant Rosneft <ROSN.MM> providing at least $17 billion in loans and credit lines since 2006.
With dozens of Western and Latin American nations regarding Maduro as illegitimate, due to allegations he rigged a 2018 election, the support of Russia and China has been crucial.
Presiding over a meeting of the Russian-Venezuelan intergovernmental commission in Caracas with Borisov, Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami thanked Moscow, especially for facilitating oil shipments despite U.S. sanctions.
“Russian-Venezuelan relations are at their best moment and we’ve shown that in the middle of difficulties we can advance together, with efficient political and diplomatic coordination between both governments against the imperial siege and aggression which Russia also suffers,” he said.
Borisov reiterated Moscow’s support for Maduro, even though many other nations regard him as an autocrat and have recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s president.
Increasing bilateral trade “is a demonstration that President Nicolas Maduro’s government is legitimate,” Borisov was quoted as saying by Venezuelan state media.
After later meeting Borisov at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Maduro said it had been “an extraordinary day” revising blossoming bilateral relations, especially in the oil, agriculture and military sectors.
Russia’s agreements with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to regulate the global energy market “are going perfectly” and have promoted market equilibrium and price stability despite the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure, Maduro added in comments carried by state TV.
The Venezuelan leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin had briefly discussed Caracas’ debt obligations to Russia during Maduro’s visit to Moscow last month.
The meeting between Maduro and the Russian official happened days after Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited Cuba, an ally of Venezuela.
Medvedev said Moscow would find ways to help Cuba secure supplies of oil and petroleum products.
A flotilla of shipments from Venezuela gave Cuba some respite this week. But the support from two of its closest allies looks unlikely to resolve Cuba’s pressing fuel problems, which have seen the government extend many of the energy-saving measures it has introduced over the past month.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow; Deisy Buitrago and Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by William Maclean, Tom Brown and Daniel Wallis)