Venezuela Welcomes Russian Warship as Maduro Seeks New US Talks

(Bloomberg) -- A Russian warship arrived on Venezuela’s coast hours after Nicolás Maduro announced renewed talks between his government and the US ahead of a presidential election this month.

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The frigate docked Tuesday in La Guaira, near Caracas, for a military salute, according to a Venezuelan official. It marked the second stop for the vessel in the Caribbean after a five-day visit in Cuba last month, alongside a nuclear submarine.

Russia’s ceremonial visit to Venezuela highlights the fine line Maduro is trying to walk. The socialist leader is trying to persuade the Biden administration to ease sanctions on his country while also burnishing ties with his backers at the Kremlin.

In a televised appearance late Monday, Maduro said the imminent talks are aimed at reaching new agreements to meet the conditions of a Qatar-brokered accord on electoral guarantees in exchange for sanctions relief. The president is seeking a third term in the July 28 vote, but most polls show him as much as 20 points behind the opposition’s candidate, Edmundo González, who is a stand-in for banned leader María Corina Machado.

For years Maduro officials have referred to Venezuela and Russia as “loyal allies,” particularly after economic sanctions isolated both nations. Both countries have been struggling to find new buyers for their crude-oil shipments as a result. And their strengthened ties date back 2010, when the late Hugo Chávez and Vladimir Putin struck agreements as part of Venezuela’s pivot away from the US.

Venezuela has also been rattling its saber at neighboring Guyana recently. Satellite imagery shows that Maduro’s government moved “substantial quantities” of military personnel and equipment to the border of the disputed Essequibo region, potentially escalating a long-standing conflict.

In December, Maduro deployed more than 5,000 soldiers on Venezuela’s eastern Caribbean coast after a UK warship arrived in Guyana for military drills.

Russia initially deployed the frigate and a nuclear submarine to the Atlantic Ocean, where they practised hitting targets in early June with long-distance missiles in simulated drills before docking in Havana. The ships stayed in the Cuban capital for five days, even offering public tours to curious visitors.

The Admiral Gorshkov frigate was accompanied in Caracas by a tanker, according to news reports citing the Russian military. It was welcomed by Putin’s ambassador to Venezuela and top Venezuelan military officials.

--With assistance from Andreina Itriago Acosta.

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