Russia has condemned foreign powers for backing a Venezuelan opposition leader who declared himself interim president, calling it a bid to “usurp power”.
Moscow said that the move violated international law and was a “direct path to bloodshed”.
Juan Guaidó declared himself interim leader on Wednesday – a move recognised by the US and several other nations.
President Nicolás Maduro, who retains some other nations’ support, broke off relations with the US in response.
Maduro has been in office since 2013. He was sworn in for a second term earlier this month, after winning a May 2018 election marred by an opposition boycott and widespread claims of vote-rigging.
Guaidó is the head of the National Assembly, who has said articles within the country’s constitution allow him to assume interim power because he believes Maduro’s election, and therefore presidency, is invalid.
He has vowed to lead a transitional government and hold free elections.
US President Donald Trump recognised Guaidó as Venezuela’s new head of state minutes after his declaration in the capital, Caracas, on Wednesday.
Trump urged other nations to follow suit – but the move has divided much of the international community.
Seven South American nations, as well as Canada and the UK, have now backed his call.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday that the UK agreed that Maduro was “not the legitimate leader of Venezuela”. “The United Kingdom believes Juan Guaidó is the right person to take Venezuela forward,” he said in a statement.
The European Union has stopped short of recognition, but called for “free and credible elections” and said Mr Guaidó’s freedom and safety should be respected.
Mexico, Bolivia and Cuba all expressed support for Maduro, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted: “My brother Maduro! Stand tall, we are standing by you.”
China, a major investor in Venezuela, said it opposed any outside interference.
Moscow sees Venezuela as one of its closest allies in the region. It has lent billions of dollars and has backed its oil industry and its military. Russia has also taken part in military exercises in Venezuela.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We consider the attempt to usurp sovereign authority in Venezuela to contradict and violate the basis and principles of international law.
A Russian foreign ministry statement said Mr Guaidó’s declaration was a “direct path to lawlessness and bloodshed”, adding: “Only Venezuelans have the right to determine their future.
“Destructive outside interference, especially in the current extremely tense situation, is unacceptable.”
Russia also warned that any US military interference would amount to “adventurism which is fraught with catastrophic consequences”.
He was asked about military intervention and while he said he was not considering it, he added that “all options are on the table”.
In a statement, he described Mr Maduro’s leadership as “illegitimate”, adding: “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”