Russia Accuses U.S. of 'Stoking Chaos' and 'Acts of Sabotage' in Venezuela, Says Russian Troops Will Stay

Russia lashed out at the United States for its actions in Venezuela, after a series of strong rebukes directed at Moscow's support of embattled President Nicolás Maduro from President Donald Trump and other top administration officials on Wednesday.

Pointing to U.S. sanctions that targeted the South American nation and other actions, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday that these efforts by Washington "could be branded as acts of sabotage against the country's electric power system," according to Russia's Tass news agency. Venezuela was hit with major blackouts as financial problems, hyperinflation and endemic corruption wreaked havoc on the economy.

A girl plays with a cellphone light as she sits outside a residential building during a power cut in Caracas, Venezuela on March 27 CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Blaming the U.S. for the problems, Zakharova said: "All that is deliberately stoking chaos and the collapse of the state, which can result in no winners." Zakkharova also insisted that Russian troops that had been sent to Venezuela would remain in the country "as long as they need it, and as long as the Venezuelan government needs them." She insisted that everything was being handled under "international and bilateral legal frameworks."

On Wednesday, Trump met with Fabiana Rosales, the wife of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Asked by reporters about Russian troops arriving in the Latin American country, Trump said they needed to "get out" and that "all options are open" for Washington to respond. Vice President Mike Pence also met with Rosales, saying Russia's actions were a "provocation," according to Reuters.

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared acting president Juan Guaido and his wife Fabiana Rosales arrive at the presidential palace in Asuncion to meet Paraguay's President Mario Abdo Benitez on March 1 NORBERTO DUARTE/AFP/Getty Images

Guaidó, Rosales husband, leads Venezuela's legislature, the National Assembly. In January, he declared himself interim president of the country. The U.S., along with other countries throughout the Americas and Europe, quickly supported him as Venezuela's acting head of state, despite Maduro's re-election last year. Guaidó and his supporters dismissed those polls as illegitimate, pointing to a boycott by a large portion of the population and allegations of voter fraud. The opposition leader claimed his decision to declare himself interim president and call for new elections was in line with the Venezuelan constitution, which calls for the head of the National Assembly to step in as head of state in the absence of a president.

Maduro, who has been backed by Russia and China, called Guaidó's actions a "coup." He has also repeatedly accused the U.S. of trying to kill him, while blaming Washington's sanctions for wreaking havoc on Venezuela's economy. Under Maduro's leadership, Venezuela has sunk into the worst financial crisis in its modern history. Because of the economic problems, rampant crime and a lack of food and medicine, millions of Venezuelans have fled the country, largely to nearby countries such as Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia.

Although many analysts have pointed to corruption and mismanagement as the principal drivers behind the economic crisis in Venezuela, other experts have said sanctions have taken a drastic toll.

Supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro demonstrate in Caracas on March 16. RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

"Certainly poor management of the economy has contributed to the situation—but not to the same degree [as sanctions]," Alfred de Zayas, a lawyer and former reporter for the United Nations Human Rights commissioner who previously went on a fact-finding mission to the Latin American country, told Newsweek. "Certainly there is corruption, but there was surely more corruption in the 1980s and 1990s during the IMF-bound neo-liberal governments," he argued.

"As I have written: Economic sanctions kill," he said. De Zayas also posited that if the opposition successfully ousted Maduro, "one can expect a Guaidó decree turning the clock back to the 'good old days' when the rich were rich and the poor were poor."