U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week, as the two countries clash over a number of issues including Venezuela, Iran, and Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb and Jorge Agobian of VOA's Spanish Service contributed to this report. WASHINGTON — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence says the United States is lifting sanctions on Venezuela's former intelligence service, but warned the 25 magistrates of the country's supreme court of possible punishment and reiterated "all options are the table" to remove President Nicolas Maduro. The audience inside the U.S.
Pompeo heads to Moscow Sunday, in his first visit to Russia as chief U.S. diplomat.
Top U.S. officials, including Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence, have accused Russia of working against Venezuela’s democratically elected opposition leader Juan Guaido in his attempts to oust embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb and Jorge Agobian of VOA's Spanish Service contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence says the United States is lifting sanctions on Venezuela's former intelligence service, but warned the 25 magistrates of the country's supreme court of possible punishment and reiterated "all options are the table" to remove President Nicolas Maduro.
The audience inside the U.S.
The United States accuses Russia of seeking a foothold in the Western Hemisphere through Venezuela.
“We are concerned about Russia’s actions in Venezuela, and we think the support for Maduro is a losing bet. So our support to the Venezuelan people continues, and that will be a subject for the discussion,” a senior State Department official told reporters last week.
Pompeo arrives in Russia on Monday to meet with American diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow before meeting with U.S. business leaders. He will also lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in honor of those who fought against the Nazi regime.
The secretary of state will then travel to Sochi Tuesday for talks with Putin and Lavrov.
Pompeo’s trip comes a few weeks ahead of a G-20 summit meeting in Osaka, Japan, which both U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Putin will attend.
Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven advanced economies were wrapping up a two-day meeting in the French seaside resort of Dinard on Saturday where they hope to seal joint commitments on a range of global challenges and lay the groundwork for August's G-7 summit in Biarritz.
Diplomats from G-7 countries, which include the U.S., France, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy and the U.K., walked side-by-side against the rocky Atlantic coast backdrop and in the fresh Brittany air to project a united front before a working lunch.
“It is in our interest to have a better relationship with Russia,” said the senior official. “When we have concerns, we're going to raise them directly, narrow those differences and find areas we can cooperate.”
The official declined to comment on whether a meeting between Trump and Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 summit is being arranged.
The State Department says Pompeo is expected to bring up Americans being detained in Russia, including former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan and Michael Calvey, founder of the Moscow-based Baring Vostok private equity group.
Whelan was accused of espionage, a charge he denies. He is due to be kept in pre-trial detention until May 28 while the investigation continues.
The United States on Friday asked why Russia had not provided any evidence to back up its accusation that Paul Whelan, a detained former U.S. marine, was a spy, a day after Whelan alleged he was being mistreated by a "kangaroo court.”
Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28 and accused of espionage, a charge he denies.
Calvey was detained in February, pending a trial on embezzlement charges that he has denied. He says the case was being used to pressure him in a corporate dispute over control of a Russian bank.
“The administration places the highest priority on the safety and the welfare of U.S. citizens overseas. We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular services in cases where U.S. citizens are detained,” said the senior official.
Last month, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman visited Whelan in a Moscow jail. American diplomats have asked Russia to “stop playing games,” saying Russian officials are likely trying to get a forced false “confession” from Whelan.
Today marks 124 days in detention for #PaulWhelan. Why haven’t Russian officials provided proof? Perhaps it’s lost along with Paul’s mail. Complete lack of evidence + Paul%27s isolation = greater likelihood officials will try to get a forced false “confession.” Stop playing games. https://t.co/rse81kxNZQ— Andrea Kalan (@USEmbRuPress) April 30, 2019
Pompeo’s trip to Russia also comes as tensions simmer between the two countries over Iran.
The U.S. is strengthening its military presence in the Middle East in what officials said was a “direct response to a number of troubling and escalatory indicators and warnings" from Iran.
The United States military is once again increasing its arsenal in the Middle East to counter Iranian threats, announcing Friday the movement of a Patriot missile battery and the USS Arlington landing platform dock ship used in amphibious assaults.
The move comes a day after The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and four B-52 bombers arrived in the Middle East in response to concerns Iran may be planning an attack against American targets.
“It’s important that Iran understand that an attack on Americans or its interests will be met with an appropriate response,” Acting U.S
The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and four B-52 bombers have arrived in the Middle East in response to concerns Iran may be planning an attack against American targets.
On Wednesday, Lavrov asked Pompeo to use diplomacy instead of threats to solve issues after Lavrov’s talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarifin Moscow.