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Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) chats with his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez during the signing ceremony in Moscow's Kremlin, 26 November 2004. Putin and Chavez signed a joint statement, as well as a protocol on the Russian accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), a high-ranking Kremlin source told Tass. AFP PHOTO / YURI KADOBNOV (Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Putin’s Venezuela: How Moscow is grabbing oil assets through loans to Caracas

Caracas/Houston — Venezuela’s unraveling socialist government is increasingly turning to ally Russia for the cash and credit it needs to survive – and offering prized state-owned oil assets in return, sources familiar with the negotiations told Reuters.

As Caracas struggles to contain an economic meltdown and violent street protests, Moscow is using its position as Venezuela’s lender of last resort to gain more control over the OPEC nation’s crude reserves, the largest in the world.

Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), has been secretly negotiating since at least early this year with Russia’s biggest state-owned oil company, Rosneft – offering ownership interests in up to nine of Venezuela’s most productive petroleum projects, according to a top Venezuelan government official and two industry sources familiar with the talks.

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