Russian FM conveys Putin's support for Maduro

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said he supports his "friend," Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who faces immense pressure to step down as the country's leader.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov conveyed President Vladimir Putin's words of support for and solidarity with Maduro Friday during talks with visiting Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez.

"Venezuela is a strategic partner of Russia ... We work very closely with your state and coordinate actions in the international arena," Lavrov told Rodriguez.

Venezuela is undergoing "a frontal offensive and a shameless interference" in its internal affairs, and Russia categorically opposes such attempts and upholds the ideals, norms and principles of the UN Charter, Lavrov said.

"We support the steps of the government of President Nicolas Maduro aimed at solving social and economic issues," the Russian top diplomat said.

At a joint press conference following their talks, Rodriguez said Venezuela will continue to strengthen relations with Russia and expand bilateral cooperation.

She said both countries expect to sign new deals on top of the existing 264 agreements at a meeting of the Russian-Venezuelan intergovernmental commission in April.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier in the day that Putin did not plan to meet Rodriguez due to his tight schedule. 

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