Russia calls U.S. sanctions on Venezuela a 'tool of genocide' amid epidemic

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's President Maduro holds a news conference at Miraflores Palace in Caracas

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Friday U.S. "narco-terrorism" charges against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro were absurd, adding that sanctions on Caracas could become "a tool of genocide" amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The U.S. government on Thursday indicted Maduro and more than a dozen other top Venezuelan officials on charges of "narco-terrorism," the latest escalation of the Trump administration's pressure campaign aimed at ousting the socialist leader.

Russia, Maduro's longtime political and financial backer, considers those accusations "absurd" and "wild" at a time when countries across the world join efforts to fight coronavirus, the Interfax news agency cited Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, as saying.

"We can not stress enough our call for an immediate lifting of unilateral unlawful sanctions that are turning in the current epidemic into an instrument of genocide," Zakharova was quoted as saying.

Zakharova said Russia had supplied coronavirus test kits to Venezuela, which has reported 107 confirmed cases of the disease and that Moscow would continue helping Caracas to stop coronavirus spreading.

President Donald Trump denied that the charges were an attempt to take advantage of Venezuela at a vulnerable time when it is expected to be hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.


(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Luc Cohen and Diane Craft)