Russia took a swipe at the United States for imposing sanctions on allies of authoritarian Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, as the South American country descends into a constitutional crisis.
"We do not think that actions of this sort contribute anything constructive," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a late Thursday statement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's team has an interest in denouncing "unilateral sanction restrictions" levied by the United States, given that sanctions — including some imposed on Russia itself — are tool of U.S. foreign policy that Russia opposes in a variety of theaters. But the statement suggests that Russia is going so far as to endorse Maduro's attempt to rewrite his country's constitution and break the power of Venezuelan opposition groups.
"The current determining reality is the formation of a new supreme national body, the National Constituent Assembly, following the July 30 elections, and its practical launch, which lay the foundations for a new institutional framework of the country's internal political life, and which we believe are creating opportunities for Venezuela to move towards stabilization," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Russia's endorsement coincided with Cuban dictator Raul Castro applauding Maduro in an open letter that also denounced American sanctions.
Venezuela's political crisis may have expanded Russia's opportunity for involvement in the region. Maduro established the so-called National Constituent Assembly through a referendum, in the face of widespread protests and strikes, in order to circumvent the existing opposition-controlled national legislature. The Russians say the referendum is "a starting point" for a resolution of the political crisis.
"We are confident that the path towards an internal political settlement in Venezuela runs through building up constructive elements in approaches that are based, not on lamentations for something that failed to materialize, but on regard for the new realities emerging in Venezuela as a starting point for further progress, making it possible to launch a practical search for areas of national accord conducive to the implementation of countrywide tasks," the Foreign Ministry statement said. "There is no alternative to direct and responsible talks between the government and the opposition. Peace in Venezuela is still dependent on all sides being ready to return to dialogue within the framework of the Constitution, without outside interference, and with conciliatory political efforts in the interests of shaping a unifying agenda."
The U.S., meanwhile, sees Venezuela as a country whose system of democracy is under assault.
"The United States considers the Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly the illegitimate product of a flawed process designed by the Maduro dictatorship to further its assault on democracy," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said following the vote. "The process was rigged from the start, from the irregular manner in which the election was decreed to the government's refusal to permit voters to object to plans to rewrite the constitution."