Russia, Turkey reaffirm support for Maduro after EU move

Indo Asian News Service

Moscow/Ankara, Feb 5 (IANS) Russia and Turkey on Tuesday reiterated their support for Venezuela's increasingly-cornered President Nicolas Maduro and criticized EU nations who recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as caretaker President of the crisis-struck nation while international pressure for early elections continued to build up.

Bulgaria became the 20th EU government to declare its support for Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's Parliament who, having first secured assurances of support from Washington, directly challenged Maduro by taking oath as interim Venezuelan President on January 23.

Russia, one of Maduro's principal creditors, and Turkey have been vociferous in their opposition to the EU's diplomatic shift, Efe news reported.

"Look at the EU, they are always saying democracy, democracy, democracy; ballots, ballots, ballots," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told members of his AKP party in a televised speech.

"And then they try to topple a government. We do not accept a world where the powerful are righteous, but we accept a world where the righteous is powerful. We are against imperialist structures."

Spain, Portugal, Germany, the UK, Denmark, Holland, France, Hungary, Austria, Finland, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Sweden and Croatia earlier declared their recognition of Guaido, a decision that came after Maduro failed to comply with an ultimatum from several EU members to call a snap presidential election.

"We see the situation as alarming. It is the result of a gross violation of the principle of non-interference with the internal affairs of a sovereign state," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a visit to Tajikistan.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov said that by recognizing Guaido, EU countries were hindering a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela.

Crippled by hyperinflation, medicine and food shortages, sanctions and falling oil prices, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have fled the Andean nation, which has also been rocked by massive and often deadly anti-government protests.

The UN said at least 40 people were killed in protest-related violence this year so far.

EU support for Guaido cascaded in throughout Monday after an ultimatum signed by some of the bloc's heavyweights -- Germany, France and the UK -- imploring Maduro to call presidential elections within eight days expired.

EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also signed a statement calling for elections in Venezuela but insisted that recognizing Guaido was not the responsibility of the bloc but rather its individual member state governments.

Maduro, who took over from his late predecessor Hugo Chavez in 2013, lashed out against the EU. Taking aim at Spain, which shares its language and a long colonial history with Venezuela, he said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had acted "cowardly".

Maduro is currently banking on the support of Russia, Turkey, Iran and sympathetic smaller partners like Cuba, North Korea and Syria.

--IANS

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