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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, is welcomed by his Venezuelan counterpart Jorge Arreaza, at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, in Caracas, on Feb. 7, 2020.CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Russia’s foreign minister visited Venezuela on Friday in a show of support for President Nicolas Maduro as U.S. vows of more pressure threaten to cut off the socialist leader from a key financial ally in Moscow.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s stop in Caracas follows a trip by Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to Washington, where officials in the Trump administration say they’re preparing to escalate efforts to force out Mr. Maduro.

The Russian diplomat urged the international community to back a “political and diplomatic” solution to Venezuela’s troubles and denounced the U.S. campaign to oust Mr. Maduro with sanctions and other measures.

“Sadly, Venezuela’s crisis is part of a grand campaign with the end goal of overthrowing the legitimate government,” Mr. Lavrov said. ”We consider this scenario unacceptable.“

Even as Mr. Lavrov was in Caracas, the Trump administration unveiled fresh sanctions against a fleet of commercial planes belonging to the Venezuelan state-owned Conviasa airlines.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement that the “illegitimate Maduro regime” relies on the airline “to shuttle corrupt regime officials around the world to fuel support for its anti-democratic efforts,” noting countries such as North Korea, Cuba and Iran.

U.S. officials said that the Trump administration will soon decide whether to impose penalties on Russia’s powerful state oil company Rosneft, an important financial lifeline to Mr. Maduro.

Mr. Guaido has been embraced in Washington by Republicans and Democrats. His international tour also took him to Colombia, across Europe and to Canada, where he rallied support among world leaders.

U.S. President Donald Trump reaffirmed his support for Mr. Guaido, recognizing him this week in the State of the Union address as Venezuela’s “true and legitimate” leader and calling Mr. Maduro a “tyrant.” Mr. Trump next welcomed Mr. Guaido to a coveted Oval Office meeting.

The gesture bolstered Mr. Guaido as support back home fades a year after he rose to the centre of Venezuela’s tumultuous political landscape, vowing to oust Mr. Maduro and end the oil-rich country’s political and financial crisis.

The U.S. and nearly 60 countries back Mr. Guaido, saying Mr. Maduro claimed victory in fraudulent elections in 2018. Mr. Maduro remains in power with backing from the Venezuelan military and allies, including Cuba, China and Turkey.

Russia and Venezuela have a political, military and economic alliance that was cemented years ago between President Vladimir Putin and the late-President Hugo Chavez, Mr. Maduro’s predecessor.

The Russians have provided the South American country with substantial assistance, including an air-defence system and help circumventing U.S. sanctions on their oil industry, but insist the extent of their support has been exaggerated by American officials.

Mr. Lavrov also met with Mr. Maduro and other Venezuelan officials to talk about co-operation in areas including energy, mining, agriculture, medicine and military-technical co-operation.

“It is important to develop our military technical co-operation to increase the defence capacity of our friends against outside threats,” Mr. Lavrov said, adding that Mr. Mr. Maduro will travel to Moscow in May.

Mr. Lavrov also appeared at a meeting with members of Mr. Maduro’s government and minority opposition parties participating in a dialogue promoted by the socialist administration. The U.S. and Mr. Guaido reject the talks that do not include major opposition leaders such as Mr. Guaido.

Mr. Lavrov said he was convinced that the parliamentary elections planned for this year are “the only possibility for political radicals” not to lose the place in Venezuela’s political future.

Moscow insists that Mr. Maduro’s government should not be excluded from any dialogue about a solution to Venezuela’s problems.

“We want everyone to comply with their international duty to resolve all disputes through peaceful means,” Mr. Lavrov said. “Venezuela’s crisis should be solved through political and diplomatic measures.”

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