United Kingdom and other European countries recognise Guaidó as Venezuela's leader

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The embattled Maduro, whose years in power have seen Venezuela sink into an economic crisis that the United Nations estimates has led as many as three million Venezuelans to flee the country and brought on widespread food shortages, has refused to step down despite accusations that his country's most recent election was rigged.

"Stop. Stop, Trump! Hold it right there! I tell Pedro Sanchez, God forbid, but if some day a coup takes place, your hands will be tainted with blood", he said.

"I don't accept ultimatums from anybody", Maduro told Spanish TV channel La Sexta.

"It marks this fight not as a fight of Trump versus Maduro or Latin America versus Maduro but a fight that is of the world against Maduro", said Julio Borges, an exiled opposition politician who has been key in building Guaido's strategy.

The arrival of 400 Russian military contractors after Mr. Trump's January 23 recognition of Mr. Guaido, the head of the National Assembly, triggered speculation that Moscow was reinforcing Mr. Maduro's personal security or even preparing his evacuation.

Last week, Canada joined the United States and other Lima Group partners in recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido, who recently swore himself as the interim president of Venezuela.

But key Maduro ally Russian Federation slammed European "interference" in the oil-rich but impoverished Latin American country, saying it was an attempt "to legitimize usurped power".

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez delivers a statement at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, Monday, Feb. 4, 2019.

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Guaido thanked each European Union country in turn on Twitter "for supporting all Venezuelans in this struggle we undertake to rescue our nation's democracy, freedom and justice".

He said Spain, which has a large Venezuelan community, is also working on a humanitarian aid program for Venezuela, where shortages of basic items are acute.

Furthermore, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stated that Guaido had the ability and the legitimacy to organize new presidential elections.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Hunt said the move followed the failure of Nicolas Maduro to call new presidential elections after being set a deadline to do so.

"We are not beggars", Maduro said on Venezuelan state TV.

He has said he is only willing to call new elections to the opposition-held National Assembly.

Some of the EU countries backing Guaido are part of a newly formed "International Contact Group" of eight European and four Latin American nations.

On Monday, oil prices rose to their highest level yet this year on European markets on the back of the crisis in Venezuela.

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"The moment is now", Guaido said in a speech on Monday in Caracas, urging the military to allow humanitarian aid to reach people.

Maduro claims the U.S. pledge to deliver $20 million in aid relief precedes a military intervention.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would formally recognise Guaido's chosen envoy as Venezuela's legitimate representative in Canada in a move his government called symbolic.

Maduro also claimed that "the military option is on Donald Trump's table".

Russian Federation is playing a high-stakes game in the mounting crisis in Venezuela, where socialist President Nicolas Maduro has been mortgaging part of the country's oil resources in exchange for financial and military support from Moscow.

All eyes are now on Venezuela's military, which has so far been Maduro's main pillar of support, but there have been signs of wavering in the ranks.

Air Force General Francisco Yanez disavowed Maduro in a video this weekend, calling on members of the military to defect. She rejected any suggestion that Canada or the Lima Group are fomenting an armed overthrow of the Maduro regime.

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