Russia expects Venezuela will probably have problems servicing its sovereign debt to Moscow, Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister said on Tuesday, after Washington imposed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil firm in a move the Kremlin called illegal.

The Trump administration on Monday imposed restrictions on the PDVSA oil company, aimed at curbing the OPEC member’s crude exports to the United States and at pressuring socialist President Nicolas Maduro to step down.


Venezuela has sunk into economic and political turmoil under Maduro, with inflation seen rising to 10 million percent this year, leading to food shortages, protests and mass emigration.

The opposition disputes the legitimacy of Maduro’s re-election to a second term last year, and opposition leader Juan Guaido, 35, proclaimed himself interim president this month. Washington has recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader, while Russia has continued to back Maduro.

When asked if the new U.S. sanctions would cause problems for Venezuela when it came to servicing its sovereign debt to Russia, which stands at $3.15 billion, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak told reporters:

“There will probably be problems. Everything now depends on the army, on the soldiers and how faithful they will be to their duty and oath. It is difficult, impossible to give a different assessment.”

Storchak said the next twice-yearly interest-only payment from Venezuela of over $100 million was due at the end of March.

Despite Storchak’s downbeat prediction, the Russian Finance Ministry issued a separate statement later on Tuesday saying it still expected the next payment to be made on time.