Venezuela's Maduro accuses Trump of ordering his murder: RIA

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He also mentioned Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia and the Vatican.

Under Hugo Chavez - Maduro's predecessor - Russian Federation became one of Venezuela's strongest allies with economic ties ranging from oil and loans to arms sales. That's because Venezuela's oil shipments to China and Russian Federation are usually taken as repayment for billions of dollars in debts.

Venezuelan opposition sympathizers had been urging Guaido to assume the presidency since Maduro was inaugurated to a second term on January 10 following a widely boycotted election a year ago that the United States and many other foreign governments described as a fraudulent.

Last week, the Bank of England denied Maduro officials' request to withdraw US$1.2 billion of gold stored there after top USA officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, lobbied their United Kingdom counterparts to cut off the regime from its overseas assets.

Vice President Mike Pence also met Tuesday with a new Venezuelan envoy appointed by Guaido, Carlos Alfredo Vecchio.

On the deployment of the USA troops in Iraq, he said it was done "to ensure the country's security".

"I don't underestimate the threat of persecution at the moment but here we are", he said.

Guaido said Venezuela's constitution gave him the authority to assume the presidency on a temporary basis and call elections, alleging that Maduro took office for a second term that he won in elections widely considered illegitimate.

Venezuela's state-run oil company PDVSA is seeking to sidestep Trump administration sanctions restricting payments for its oil by asking major buyers, including US refiners, to renegotiate contracts, four sources involved in the talks said. He said the certification would "help Venezuela's legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people".

Venezuela's Maduro rejects European Union ultimatum on fresh elections
Private Russian military contractors have been reported in other countries, including Syria, Ukraine, and in African nations. Russia, China, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea also blocked a USA push for a U.N.

It comes amid fears of a US-backed coup to overthrow Maduro's government - something that could have prompted the movement of such large amounts of gold overseas.

Washington on Monday said proceeds from PDVSA's sales to companies in the United States will be frozen until a new government can take control of the accounts.

"I would imagine that if at any point the Venezuelan Central Bank kept some of its reserves in the USA, it could be rather significant", de Bolle said.

As Venezuela's opposition gains strength and worldwide backing, experts are certain that Putin will do whatever it takes to keep Maduro in power.

Speaking Tuesday outside the National Assembly, Guaido said he was aware of personal risks.

Worth about US$840 million, the gold represents about 20 per cent of the bank's holdings of the metal in Venezuela, the person said.

The loss of revenue from the United States, the No. 1 buyer of Venezuelan crude, is sure to further hamper the government's ability to import basic goods like food and medicine, exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that has prompted more than 3 million people to leave the country in recent years. Russian Federation also has extensive commercial interests in Venezuela, including state oil company Rosneft's partnership with the Venezuelan state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

At least 40 people have been killed in clashes with security forces nationwide and at least 850 arrested since January 21 when a brief military rebellion was put down in Caracas, according to the United Nations human rights office in Geneva.

Maduro's allies blame the opposition for the violence during arrests made at the mass protests and deny the high death toll, as well as reports that minors were among those arrested.

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