Putin to meet new Cuban leader on first Moscow visit
Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to meet Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Friday on his first official visit to long-term ally Moscow. Diaz-Canel took office in April in a historic transition of power on the Caribbean island, succeeding Raul Castro, who took over from his elder brother Fidel, father of the 1959 revolution.
Cold War ally Moscow has affirmed “unshakeable solidarity” with Communist Cuba and last year criticised US President Donald Trump for reversing Barack Obama’s deal to restore ties with Havana.
The visit comes a day after the US, which has slapped several rounds of sanctions on Russia, imposed new economic restrictions on Cuba.
Diaz-Canel flew into Moscow on Thursday evening for a three-day visit accompanied by foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez and other officials.
“We would like to confirm the unchanged policy of Cuba… towards Russia,” Diaz-Canel told parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin on Friday morning, in translated comments reported by TASS state news agency.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also stressed the warmth of “friendship and cooperation with Cuba” the day before, telling journalists: “Russia intends to continue these relations and do everything possible to develop them.”
The Cuban and Russian leaders will seek to boost bilateral trade and economic links, Peskov said.
Military cooperation will also be on the agenda, he said, adding that the topic was “quite sensitive” and he could not give details.
He declined to comment on a report in Russia’s Kommersant daily that Russia would lend Cuba more than $50 million to buy Russian arms.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov during a visit to Cuba this week said contracts including deals to modernise Cuba’s railways would be signed during Diaz-Canel’s visit, Russian news agencies reported.
Diaz-Canel will later meet Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, who held a landmark meeting with Pope Francis in Cuba in 2016.
Previous Cuban president Raul Castro visited Russia in 2015 while Putin visited the island on a tour of Latin America in 2014, meeting both Raul and Fidel Castro.