Russia denies U.S. claim on Maduro flight from Venezuela

May 2, 2019

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday forcefully denied his U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s claim that Russia convinced Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to stay and fight for his job, instead of fleeing on a waiting flight for Cuba.

The foreign minister said Mr. Pompeo’s statement is “not true,” state-run RIA news reported.

On Tuesday, Mr. Pompeo said the socialist Mr. Maduro “had an airplane on the tarmac, he was ready to leave [Tuesday] morning as we understand it, and the Russians indicated he should stay.”

U.S. officials for months have blasted Russia’s involvement in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis. Officials in Moscow on Tuesday blamed Washington and the “radical opposition in Venezuela” for the unfolding violence and clashes on the streets of Caracas this week.

The U.S. and more than 50 other nations have rejected Mr. Maduro’s claim to power and instead recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the rightful leader of Venezuela. Trump administration officials say that they had back-channel talks with Mr. Maduro’s top aides on a transition plan, but so far Venezuela’s military appears to be siding with the regime.