- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 3, 2019

Russia is prepared to participate in bilateral talks with the U.S. over the ongoing situation in Venezuela, the Russian foreign ministry announced late Saturday.

“In connection with Washington’s proposal to hold bilateral consultations on the Venezuelan topic, it was stated that Russia is ready to participate in this,” the Russian foreign ministry said of a phone conversation between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

Russia and the U.S. have been at odds over the situation since Venezuela’s January election, with Russia backing socialist President Nicolas Maduro and the U.S. supporting opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Russia slammed the U.S. for making “threats” towards the Maduro regime, which the foreign ministry called “an overt interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and a severe violation of the international law.”

Earlier this week, the U.S. slapped dozens of new visa restrictions and sanctions on Mr. Maduro’s inner circle and their families, escalating a standoff with the socialist regime in a move to apply more pressure on Mr. Maduro to step down.

The U.S. also sent additional funds to Venezuela for humanitarian aid after Maduro-backed military forces blocked international aid into the country by placing roadblocks at Colombia border towns. Mr. Maduro quickly denounced the assistance as a precursor to U.S. intervention in his country.

Russia’s foreign ministry condemned the U.S. move, and said in a statement following the phone call that “this incitement and destructive external influence, imposed under the hypocritical pretense of rendering humanitarian aid, has nothing to do with the democratic process.”

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