The U.S. on Monday sanctioned a Moscow-based bank jointly owned by Russian and Venezuelan state-owned companies for its support for Venezuela's embattled President Nicolas Maduro and the country's state-controlled oil industry.
The U.S. Treasury said it was targeting Evrofinance Mosnarbank, which was founded in 2011 to help provide financing for joint Russia-Venezuela oil and infrastructure projects, for allegedly trying to circumvent U.S. sanctions on Venezuela.
"This action demonstrates that the United States will take action against foreign financial institutions that sustain the illegitimate Maduro regime and contribute to the economic collapse and humanitarian crisis plaguing the people of Venezuela," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The U.S. and more than 50 other governments recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president in Venezuela. They contend that Maduro, who is clinging to power, was not legitimately re-elected last year because opposition candidates were not permitted to run.
The sanctions are the latest effort by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to try to force out Maduro.
The Treasury statement said that Evrofinance has been a key "lifeline" of Maduro's government. It supported the Maduro government's failed effort last year to create a new cryptocurrency, the petro.
"Evrofinance's involvement in the petro demonstrated Maduro's hope that the petro would allow Venezuela to circumvent U.S. financial sanctions," the statement said.
The sanctions prohibit Americans and U.S. businesses from conducting any transactions with Evrofinance, with the aim of ending Venezuela's access to international financial markets.