President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela criticized Wednesday the barrage of Western sanctions slapped on Russia, bucking the global chorus of condemnation of its invasion of Ukraine.

“What they are doing against the Russian people is a crime, an economic war,” Maduro said as he reiterated support for President Vladimir Putin in what Maduro called the “conflict with Ukraine.”

Maduro noted that some Russian banks have been removed from the SWIFT international bank messaging system and that many countries have barred Russian carriers from their airspace, among other forms of punishment for the invasion of Russia’s pro-Western neighbor.

“What they are doing with Russia is madness,” Maduro said at a televised event.

Russia is a key ally of Maduro’s leftist government, which has presided over the economic collapse of the oil-rich nation and is itself under Western sanctions aimed at forcing Maduro from power.

In his remarks Wednesday, Maduro abstained from criticizing the Russian attack that began a week ago and has now left hundreds of Ukrainians dead, many of them civilians, and displaced hundreds of thousands more from their homes.

“Economic wars must end,” he said. “The world’s problems must be resolved via the diplomatic, political route. World peace must be preserved.”

Maduro spoke with Putin Tuesday and expressed “strong support” for the invasion, according to a Kremlin statement.

Venezuela, along with Cuba and Nicaragua — all targets of United States sanctions — are Latin American allies of Moscow.

The United States and dozens of other countries do not recognize Maduro’s 2018 reelection, which they say was fraudulent.

© 2022 AFP