The Trump administration announced sanctions Tuesday on a Russian state-controlled brokerage that has helped the Venezuelan government skirt an American oil embargo and enabled President Nicolas Maduro keep his grip on power in the South American country.
Administration officials said Rosneft Trading S.A. and its president, Didier Casimiro, would be added to a financial blacklist in a move that is expected to largely freeze him and the company out of the global financial system.
The action is an unusually strong move against a company linked to the Russian state and amounts to a substantial escalation of a U.S.-led campaign that has failed to oust Maduro from power.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Rosneft Trading is the primary broker for the sale and transportation of Venezuelan crude oil.
"Rosneft Trading has propped up the dictatorial Maduro, enabling his repression of the Venezuelan people," he said in announcing the sanctions.
Rosneft Trading is incorporated in Switzerland and Russian-owned, according to the State Department. The parent company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But Russian lawmaker Pavel Zavalny said the country would continue to cooperate with Venezuela in the energy sector despite the U.S. sanctions. "One doesn't abandon friends in need," Zavalny said.
The U.S. and about 60 other countries say Maduro's reelection in 2018 was not legitimate and have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president.
Source : VOA