Russia helping Venezuela with wheat supplies, says foreign minister

FILE PHOTO: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint news conference with Venezuela's Vice President Delcy Rodriguez in Moscow, Russia, March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow was helping Venezuela with supplies of wheat, hours before a Reuters reporter saw a Venezuela-bound cargo ship carrying Russian wheat transit the Bosphorus.

Lavrov made the comments about wheat at a joint news conference with Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, who was visiting Moscow.

Lavrov said that efforts by Western nations to isolate Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in the face of a challenge from the opposition were causing problems, but that Moscow was trying to help with supplies.

Hours after he spoke, a Reuters photographer saw a cargo ship laden with Russian wheat near Istanbul en route for the Mediterranean. Publicly available tracking data showed the ship was bound for Puerto Cabello in Venezuela.

A Turkish official said the ship was carrying 32,400 tonnes of Russian wheat.

Russia’s agriculture ministry said Moscow had delivered 257,200 tonnes of wheat in 2018 for $57.9 million. It said 30,600 tonnes of wheat had been delivered in January this year for $7.1 million.

Additional reporting by Polina Ivanova in Moscow and by Yoruk Isik in Istanbul, writing by Maria Tsvetkova, editing by Andrew Osborn