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Venezuela hands Putin ace card to outsmart West by following Maduro's gold masterplan




Ukraine: Belarus urged to refrain from aiding Russia by NATO

Russia has roughly $132billion (£100billion) in gold reserves, which Putin has reportedly been stockpiling since 2014 in anticipation of Western sanctions over Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine. G7 leaders announced on Thursday that they were cracking down on Russia’s gold reserves in an attempt to stop Putin from exploiting this “lifeline”.

Existing sanctions imposed by the West already prevent Russia from trading its gold with Western countries, particularly the sanctions on Russia’s Central Bank.

Edoardo Saravalle, a sanctions expert at Columbia University in New York, explained that the Russian leader had been stockpiling gold since the US applied sanctions on the country in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea.

He said Putin has long planned to use gold to try to prop up the economy as it becomes increasingly isolated from global financial systems, creating a so-called “fortress Russia”.

He told “Putin had spent the time between 2014 and the invasion preparing himself to withstand Western sanctions.

“And one of the things he did was limit exposure to the dollar and accumulate foreign exchange reserves to be ready, and gold was part of it.

“Russia was a huge buyer of gold for many years, but it wasn’t just about accumulating gold, but also locating the gold in Russia.

“All these things were meant to prepare Russia for some kind of sanctions.”

President Maduro

Venezuela’s gold supplies have provided a lifeline for the country’s economy. (Image: GETTY)

Russian central bank

Western sanctions on Russia’s Central Bank have already limited Russia’s ability to sell its gold. (Image: GETTY)

Putin appears to have followed the example of Venezuela’s former president Hugo Chavez, who repatriated 160 tonnes of gold reserves from Europe in 2011.

The move has been viewed as critical to allowing Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, to hold onto power in the face of crippling US sanctions levelled at his regime since 2014.

As Western countries tightened sanctions on Caracas in the years since, the Venezuelan financial system has become increasingly isolated from the global economy.

The US imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s central bank in 2019, blocking Maduro from engaging in traditional gold operations such as selling gold in the London gold market or temporarily ‘swapping’ bullion for more liquid foreign exchange.

However, Maduro was able to harness the country’s gold wealth by reportedly transporting tonnes of physical gold around the world to sell in unregulated markets, including in Uganda, the United Arab Emirates and other locations.

The country’s gold reserves have therefore provided a lifeline, with Maduro’s government selling the gold in “illicit markets” as a way of obtaining currency.

Mr Saravalle explained: “Gold is theoretically more flexible in that it’s a physical asset you can move.

“In the Venezuela case, they physically loaded it onto a plane, went to Africa and sold it, so it is certainly still a potential lifeline.”

READ MORE: WW3 ‘realistic’: Global conflict fears erupt as Putin’s attack spirals


Russia’s invasion has already displaced over 3.5 million Ukrainians. (Image: GETTY)

G7 leaders

G7 leaders met on Thursday to discuss how to further crack down on Moscow. (Image: GETTY)

However, experts claim that such illicit sales of gold would not be enough to support Russia as it continues to escalate its attacks on Ukraine, where Putin has been accused of targeting civilians and committing war crimes.

Mr Saravalle explained: “There’s a reason that’s not how most countries manage their economies day today. It’s a pretty inflexible and slow process.”

Jan Lepeu, a sanctions expert from the European University Institute, said: “Increasing the gold reserves was clearly a page taken from Chevez’s playbook, but much like in the case of Venezuela, it’s unlikely to be a silver bullet.

“The Russian case, like the Venezuela one, has shown that there is only so much you can do to mitigate the impact of sanctions in a world in which the USD and the western markets remain the bedrock of the international financial system.”

Putin could still look to sell gold in other markets to attempt to prop up the country’s faltering economy.

Mr Saravalle explained: “Gold has in the past been used to attempt to evade sanctions. In general, it is a potential means because it’s physical so it can be under government control and it is relatively fungible. So there are ways it is a potential way to evade sanctions.”

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Russia has been accused of committing war crimes in Ukraine, including targeting civilians. (Image: GETTY)

“The fastest way sanctions have an effect is through the financial system because banks have historically faced large fines for not complying with sanctions, and so are extremely receptive to Western sanctions.

“So because gold kind of sits outside of this banking system, it’s always an enticing way to try to avoid sanctions.”

However, Western sanctions have not only cut Russia off from a huge proportion of potential buyers for its gold, but also drastically reduced the price Putin could sell his reserves at as many countries now view trade with Russia as off-limits.

Mr Saravalle explained: “There is a potential market, but part of the problem is that even though the market is there, Russia has a relatively weak bargaining position, so it would likely have to sell the gold at a discount.

“So in that sense it wouldn’t be as much of a lifeline just because it doesn’t have particular strength going into a sale transaction as a negotiating partner.”

He added: “I think it would help but I don’t think it would be enough, especially in the short term.

“So much of the impact of the sanctions has come from the fact that they have been put on very quickly and by a lot of different people, which have led to a kind of tidal wave on the Russian economy.

“And in the tidal wave scenario, using that gold is not going to be fast-acting enough. Over time it might be different, but I would say in the short term, it won’t be particularly helpful.”



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Read more: Ryan Garcia and Who is Ryan Garcia Net Worth


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'This is huge' Swedish Air Force jet deployed over Belarus border in threat to Putin




The Scandinavian country is not a member of NATO, but could be ready to trade in its neutral status in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

News of Stockholm’s decision to send a jet was revealed by twitter user Jamming.

They wrote: “Swedish Air Force Korpen active over Poland border area with Belarus.

“Sweden part of surveillance of Belarus and Ukraine!!!

“This is a huge political statement! Update on SwAF Korpen.”


The Gulfstream IV aircraft was tracked taking off from Linking airport and then flying towards the city of Grodno in western Belarus.

It was flying at an altitude of just under 12,000 metres at a speed of 836 kilometres per hour.

Although Sweden is not a NATO member, it is an “enhanced opportunity partner” of the military alliance.

The government also signed a statement in 2018 pledging to strengthen its defence cooperation.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson rejected calls by opposition parties earlier this month for the country to join NATO.

She argued that such a move would further destabilise Europe.

Her statement came in the wake of threats from Moscow that NATO membership would bring “serious military-political consequences” for Sweden.

However, there is growing public support among Swedes for their country to join the transatlantic military alliance.

A poll conducted in late February by broadcaster SVT found that 41 percent of the public supported NATO membership, while thirty-five percent were against.

It was the first time an opinion study in Sweden had found more people in favour of the country joining NATO than were against it.



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Putin humiliated: Russia tries and fails to capture defiant Ukraine village for tenth time




Russia has tried and failed to capture the village of the Chornobaevka ten times, according to Ukrainian presidential adviser Aleksey Arestovich. Videos shared by Ukrainian officials online showed the “tenth defeat of the Russian invaders in Chornobaevka”. The continued failures to capture the village comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last night that his country’s forces had “dealt powerful blows” to the Russian military.

Mr Arestovich told a press conference that Russian troops had tried to take Chornobaevka for the tenth time, but the assault again ended in failure.

Following this, the head of the nearby Mykolaiv Regional State Administration Vitaly Kim published a video showing “the defeat” as explosions erupt on the outskirts of the village.

The resolute village has become famous in Ukraine for its defence, as President Zelensky commended Chornobaivka last weekend for fending off six invasions at the time.

He said: “Ukrainian Chornobaivka will go down in war history. This is a place where the Russian military and their commanders have shown themselves for who they truly are – incompetent, capable of simply handing over their people for slaughter.

“Our military has annihilated the invaders near Chornobaivka six times.

“Six times, yet they keep coming back.”

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Online users ridiculed the latest Russian failures and hailed the Ukrainian defiance, with one Reddit user remarking: “At some point, I think every military intelligence outfit looking at this must be wondering how bad the rot is in the Russian military.”

One user visavillem added: “So this is the 10th time. Are Russians trying to bait Ukrainians to waste ammo with some obsolete/broken equipment, or are they really so stupid, that they keep stepping on the same rake again and again?”

Another user on Reddit adfgqert posted: “The Ukrainian people have resolve and determination that is beyond what I think is normal.

“Beyond inspirational and they bring fighting for what they believe in to a new level for me.” 

This comes amid ongoing setbacks for Russian military forces in the south of the country.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Russia had withdrawn most of its helicopters from a strategic airport in Kherson, in southern Ukraine, according to satellite images.

Kherson has also been the site of several local protests against the occupying Russian soldiers.

The official said: “We can’t corroborate exactly who is in control of Kherson but the point is, it doesn’t appear to be as solidly in Russian control as it was before.

“That would make it very, very difficult for them to make any kind of ground movement on Odesa.

“That would be a significant development, no question about that, in terms of the southern part of the war.” 


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