In rare backing for Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, Venezuela's president Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday assured Vladimir Putin of his "strong support" in a telephone call, according to a Kremlin statement.
In the call initiated by Caracas, the Venezuelan leader also condemned "destabilising actions of the United States and NATO" and spoke out against a Western campaign of "lies and disinformation," it said.
Dozens of people have been killed and nearly 680,000 have fled Ukraine since Putin ordered his troops into the country last week after failing to get guarantees that NATO will not expand its military alliance eastward.
In the call with Maduro, Putin insisted the objectives of the military assault were to "protect the civilian population" of the Donbass separatist region and to get Kiev to recognise Russian sovereignty over Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.
It also sought to ensure a "neutral and non-nuclear" Ukrainian position towards Russia, said the statement.
After the call, Maduro published a message on Twitter with a photograph of him and Putin, and said he also told the Russian leader Venezuela was "in favour of understanding and dialogue as a way to preserve peace."
Venezuela, along with Cuba and Nicaragua -- all targets of United States sanctions -- are Latin American allies of Moscow.
The United States and dozens of other countries do not recognize Maduro's 2018 reelection, which they say was fraudulent.
During an interview in December, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov would not rule out Moscow sending forces to Venezuela or Cuba if diplomacy failed with the United States over Ukraine.