Venezuela news: How Putin’s Russian oil is keeping Venezuela president in power

The US has accused Russia of keeping Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro in power to score cheap foreign policy goals. A senior US official said Russia’s state-controlled oil group, Rosneft, is “central” to the survival of Mr Maduro’s government. This because of its pivotal role in the country’s crude oil and arranging finances.

The Trump administration has been tightening economic sanctions on Venezuela in an attempt to take down the government and trigger a fresh presidential election.

Elliott Abrams, Washington’s special representative for Venezuela told Financial Times: “The Russians are in a different situation because Rosneft is really central to the regime’s survival.

“It is buying the oil that is produced, it is helping sell that oil, it is helping them arrange financing … Rosneft is really key here.”

However, Kremlin has argued Russia’s relationship with Mr Maduro is pragmatic, rather than strategic.

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But Rosneft said its relations with the Venezuelan oil industry company go back long before the US sanctions.

Rosneft said attempts by the US to hinder Venezuelan oil supplies to the company would ”represent illegal expropriation on behalf of American officials.”

The company added: “That is why the company retains the right to defend its investment in relevant national and international institutions.”

Venezuela is in the middle of a political crisis as a succession of world powers, including the USA, declared they were recognising the opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the rightful president of the South American nation.

Mr Maduro has held the position as head of state since 2013 but has been blamed for the sharp decline in his country’s economy.

Since his election Venezuela’s socioeconomic status declined, while crime, inflation, poverty and hunger increased.

More than 50 European and Latin American countries have followed the US’ lead but Mr Guaidó has so far failed to ignite either a popular uprising or a military revolt.