Developments in Venezuela should not lead to civil war - Russia's European Union envoy

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The 35-year-old president of Venezuela's National Assembly outlined the opposition's recent moves and called on "blocks" of the military to defect from Maduro's administration and "get on the side of the Venezuelan people". It returned on Thursday to Vnukovo International Airport outside Moscow after a direct flight from Caracas.

Other commentators speculated - without solid evidence -that the planes may have brought Russian mercenaries to Venezuela, or that they were there to escort Maduro into exile.

Some analysts saw in the flights echoes of what has transpired in the final days of other authoritarian rulers around the globe.

Chevron CEO Michael Wirth says that, "For the foreseeable future, we feel like we can maintain a good stable operation and a safe operation on the ground in Venezuela".

The ruling Socialist party celebrates the 20th anniversary of the rise to power of Hugo Chavez, Maduro's deceased predecessor, on Saturday.

"The presumption is that it is gold".

"You want elections? You want early elections?" The cargo plane was still at the airport in Caracas, according to the website Flightradar24. "They will not return to govern Venezuela or come to take our oil!"

"Chávez was endlessly traveling to Russia", said Maxim Trudolyubov, editor of the Russia File blog at the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, a think tank in Washington.

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On Thursday, lawmakers at the Brussels-based European Parliament voted to accept Guaido as "legitimate interim president of the country" - and urged the European Union to follow suit.

Major European countries have set a Sunday deadline for Mr Maduro to call snap presidential elections.

Meanwhile, California-based Chevron Corp. said its operations in Venezuela will continue normally for the "foreseeable future" despite newly imposed USA sanctions on Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA. "It is time to end the Maduro regime".

"The use of sanctions by outside powers to overthrow an elected government is in violation of all norms of global law", he said in a statement in Geneva. But the new interim head-of-state is still scrambling to secure a domestic and worldwide collation against Maduro.

Maduro, Chavez's handpicked successor, is facing the most serious challenge to his legitimacy yet, with the United States, Canada and almost a dozen Latin American countries piling on pressure for his removal from office.

"As President Trump said just last week: The fight for freedom has begun", Pence said then abruptly had stopped because the room interrupted him with applause and exuberant cheers. For too long the people of Venezuela have suffered under the heavy hand of oppression but now there is hope. The Trump administration has banned US companies from doing business with PDVSA but allowed a six-month grace period for companies with ongoing operations in the South American country.

"It's been years of destruction of companies and poverty", said Pedro Gimenez, 51, a worker in an aluminum factory in the southern state of Bolivar. Sechin, fluent in Portuguese, later learned Spanish, he added.

- Moscow may have helped Venezuela spirit away the gold bars aboard the Boeing 757 cargo plane twice this month, the investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta cited unnamed sources as saying.

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