Venezuela's embattled socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro on Thursday secured the backing of two key allies: his nation's defense minister and Russia.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez on Thursday called Maduro the nation's "legitimate" president, one day after opposition leader Juan Guaido claimed the title of interim president of the Bolivarian Republic. The military chief said Guaido's move amounted to an attempted coup.
The endorsement is a blow to the United States and a number other nations backing Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's National Assembly. The loss of military backing would have made it far more difficult for Maduro to cling to power.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also threw his support behind Maduro on Thursday. A briefing on Putin's telephone conversation with Maduro claimed "the worsening of the internal political crisis" is being "provoked from outside the country."