Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose government is under pressure from protesters at home and Western governments that say he has become increasingly authoritarian, is to meet this week with the leaders of Russia and Belarus.
The Kremlin said that Maduro will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on October 4 for talks focusing on “the development of a strategic partnership between the two countries in various spheres” as well as international and regional issues.
The Spanish EFE news agency quoted Maduro as saying he has been invited to Russian Energy Week, a conference being held in Moscow on October 3-7.
Venezuela became the largest external source of crude oil for Russian state giant Rosneft a few years ago, and Rosneft has provided support for Venezuela’s state oil company after the United States imposed sanctions on Maduro in early August.
Reuters reported later in August, citing unnamed sources, that Maduro’s socialist government has increasingly turned to Russia for cash and credit amid unrest in the Latin American country.
Maduro also said that he will visit Belarus on October 5 and hold talks with top officials on bilateral cooperation in housing construction, industrial development, and trade.
The Venezuelan Embassy in Minsk said on October 3 that Maduro will attend the unveiling of a monument to Venezuelan national hero Simon Bolivar, a symbol of defiance against European powers and by extension the United States.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who is criticized in the West for his authoritarian rule, is known for strident comments suggesting that his country is fighting off challenges to its sovereignty from foreign powers.
Maduro said that, after Belarus, he will travel to Turkey to chair an intergovernmental commission meeting focusing on “boosting bilateral cooperation in financial, energy, agro-industrial, and military spheres.”
Venezuela has had friendly relations with Russia under late leader Hugo Chavez and his successor Maduro, both of whom have been sharply criticized by the United States.
The United States has imposed several rounds of sanctions against Venezuela, mainly in response to the creation of a powerful Constituent Assembly that was elected in a July vote that the opposition labeled fraudulent.
More than 120 people have been killed in four months of protests against Maduro and his plans to create the assembly and rewrite Venezuela’s constitution.
Many countries have declined to recognize the assembly, which Maduro insists has brought peace to the country of 30 million.
Amid a fourth straight year of recession, millions of Venezuelans are suffering food shortages and rampant inflation.
With reporting by EFE, TASS, Interfax, DPA, BelTA, Reuters, AP, and Bloomberg