The President of Venezuela has announced the closure of the country's embassy and consulates in the United States, having broken off diplomatic ties with US President Donald Trump's government yesterday.
Nicolas Maduro made the call during a special session at the Supreme Court in which he accused the US of pushing opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself Venezuela's acting president, into attempting a coup d'etat.
Meanwhile, the United States has ordered non-emergency embassy staff to leave Venezuela but stopped short of complying with a full expulsion ordered by Nicolas Maduro, who Washington says is no longer president.
The State Department said in a notice that the US government had limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Venezuela.
Mass protests against Mr Maduro broke out four days ago, which have so far claimed the lives of 26 people.
The latest death toll comes from the Caracas-based Observatory of Social Conflict.
The previous toll from the protests - which began when a group of soldiers took over a command post in the north of the capital in defiance of the socialist regime - had stood at 16.
In some places, armed forces have fired tear gas and rubber bullets to subdue protesters, some of whom threw stones.
Earlier, the EU called for Venezuelan authorities to respect the "civil rights, freedom and safety" of Mr Guaidó, but stopped short of following Washington and recognising him as interim president.
"On 23 January, the people of Venezuela have massively called for democracy and the possibility to freely determine their own destiny. These voices cannot be ignored," the EU said in statement.
"The Venezuelan people have the right to peacefully demonstrate, to freely choose its leaders and decide its future," the statement added.
Mr Guaidó has sworn himself in as the right head of state with the support of nations around the region, leaving Mr Maduro increasingly isolated.
Mr Trump formally recognised Mr Guaidó shortly after his announcement and praised his plan to hold elections.
The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime. Today, I have officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela. https://t.co/WItWPiG9jK— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2019
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A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation into reported casualties that had occurred during the unrest in Venezuela, and urged all parties in the divided country to enter peaceful dialogue.
"The Secretary-General underlines the urgent need for all relevant actors to commit to inclusive and credible political dialogue to address the protracted crisis in the country," Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets across Venezuela to demand that Mr Maduro step aside.
Russia has said Mr Maduro is the legitimate president of Venezuela and outside attempts to usurp power flouted international law.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that outside interference in the country was "unacceptable" and that statements by US officials suggesting the possibility of military intervention there were very dangerous.
Mr Guaidó has promised free and fair elections, a transition government to revive the hyperinflation-riddled economy and an amnesty for military officers if they help push Mr Maduro from power.
He faces the daunting task of pushing forward the transition plan without control over crucial state institutions and armed forces that have disavowed him.
Military commanders, including Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino, have so far promised to stick with Mr Maduro.
With the country's economy falling apart and annual inflation approaching two million per cent, Mr Maduro has relied extensively on the military to maintain power.