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US response to Russian troops in Venezuela could include sanctions

US response to Russian troops in Venezuela could include sanctions”

National security adviser John Bolton issued a statement Friday morning condemning Maduro's recent crackdowns against widespread dissent, days after the Russian military deployed nearly 100 troops and 35 tons of cargo to Caracas in support of the embattled government - a move Moscow dismissed as "nothing mysterious" but which the White House appears to consider escalatory.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been given a list of options to respond to Russia's growing presence in Venezuela in support of Maduro, including new sanctions, said Elliott Abrams, the U.S. special representative for Venezuela.

The sources said that the State Department made clear that any kind of oil trade, whether it be direct, indirect or barter, would be considered a breach.

In an escalation of tensions, U.S. President Donald Trump called on Moscow to remove all its soldiers from Venezuela after a Russian military contingent arrived just outside of Caracas, saying "all options" were open to make that happen. The statement says any such actions would be viewed as a "direct threat" to regional security.

"Neither Russia nor Venezuela are provinces of the United States", Zakharova said.

Asked about Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's announcement this week that opposition leader Juan Guaido is banned from Venezuelan politics for the next 15 years, Abrams said " I don't imagine that Juan Guaido is deeply anxious, because the Maduro regime - while it might be around in 15 days, [it] is not going to be around in 15 years.

Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is facing accusations he is buying support from Russian Federation. Maduro retains control of state functions and the loyalty of the country's military.

Russian Federation has said it sent "specialists" to Venezuela under a military cooperation deal but insisted they posed no threat to regional stability, brushing aside Trump's threat.

Two Russian air force planes landed outside Caracas last Saturday and were believed to be carrying Russian military personnel and equipment. Trump added that Moscow is well-aware of the USA stance. Oil provides 90 percent of export revenue for Venezuela. The United States imposed sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company PDVSA in January, preventing US companies from dealing with it unless revenues went to a fund available to Guaido.

Years of economic mismanagement have left Venezuela's economy in shambles, causing hyperinflation. Severe shortages of food and medicine are common, and power blackouts have exacerbated the crisis.

Abrams said the aid was "very welcome" but said it was only the beginning of what was needed.

When asked by Rep. Salud Carbajal whether the White House intends to use the US military to resolve the situation in Venezuela, Shanahan told the California Democrat, "That's not my understanding".

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