US slaps sanctions on Russian bank over links with Venezuela

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The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on a Russian bank which it claimed has business ties with a designated Venezuelan state-owned oil company, the latest move to drain off financial support for President Nicolas Maduro's government.

The U.S. Treasury said in a statement that it has slapped sanctions on Evrofinance Mosnarbank, a Moscow-based bank which "has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for" Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), a Venezuelan state-owned oil company that was added to America's blacklist in January.

Following Monday's announcement, all property of Evrofinance in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons would be blocked, and U.S. persons were generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with it.

Evrofinance is jointly owned by Russian and Venezuelan state-owned companies, according to the Treasury statement. The Venezuelan government bought a 49 percent stake in Evrofinance through the Venezuelan National Development Fund in 2011.

The Treasury's move was the latest in a string of actions by the Trump administration to pile up pressure on incumbent Venezuelan President Maduro. The United States has designated six Venezuelan security officials and four Venezuelan state governors aligned with Maduro in the past two weeks.

The Trump administration recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the nation's "interim president" on Jan. 23, days after Maduro was inaugurated for a second term as Venezuelan president.

In response to Washington's support for Guaido, Maduro announced he was severing "diplomatic and political" ties with the United States.

On Feb. 23, Maduro announced the severance of his country's diplomatic and political relations with Colombia, following the latter's support for Venezuela's opposition and military defectors. 

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