For Russia, the Venezuelan crisis is a tit-for-tat game

A Russian financier with direct inside knowledge of Russia's thinking into the ongoing Venezuela crisis told FOX Business' Trish Regan that Vladimir Putin cares about the political turmoil because he wants to needle the Trump administration.

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The White House last week announced the “full weight” of U.S. power behind opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who invoked a protocol whereby the head of the assembly can become national leader if the office of the president has been wrongfully taken. He promised to retain control of the office until free elections are held.

While the U.S. and European Union have recognized Guaidó as the legitimate leader of the country, Russia and China have thrown their support behind disputed President Nicolas Maduro.

But as far as the Russians are concerned, it’s tit-for-tat game that they believe resembles their own foray into Ukraine.

Russian banker Maxim Shashenkov told FBN that Putin is keenly interested in Venezuela because he effectively is trying to goad the administration, like he believes the U.S. needs the Kremlin.

This week, tensions in Caracas heightened when a Russian-owned freight airliner was spotted leaving the country, the latest of two flights. Russian media outlet, Novaya Gazeta, reported that the flights were part of an overarching effort in Moscow to help Maduro by removing 20 tons of gold from Venezuela's national bank. The amount would reportedly represent about 20 percent of the country's holdings.

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But Shashenkov said the real reason behind the empty plane in Caracas is that Maduro owes the Russians at least 17 billion in debt — and they consider this gold to be a down payment on what they are owed.