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Putin urges dialogue between Venezuela's Maduro, opposition

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin told Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro Wednesday he supported talks between the embattled leader and the opposition, warning that refusing dialogue could further threaten the crisis-wracked country.

Welcoming the leftist leader at the Kremlin, Putin reiterated support for Maduro but also indicated the Venezuelan president should be open to dialogue with his critics.

"No doubt we support the dialogue that you, Mr President, and your government are having with the opposition forces," Putin said.

"We believe that any refusal to have dialogue is irrational, harms the country, and only threatens the population's well-being." While Putin praised cooperation between the two countries, there were no plans to sign any new deals during Maduro's visit, the Kremlin has said. Putin pointed to growing trade turnover which included agricultural supplies to Venezuela where a quarter of the 30-million-strong population is in need of humanitarian aid.

Russia plans to send up to 600,000 tonnes of grain to the crisis-stricken country this year, up from 254,000 tonnes last year, authorities said.

Putin also said his country would send to Venezuela 1.5 million doses of flu vaccine "in the near future". Russia is the second largest lender to Caracas after China, with Moscow heavily investing in Venezuela's oil resources and Caracas acquiring Russian arms worth billions of dollars.

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