Russia and Cuba vow to expand their 'strategic' ties
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. Diaz-Canel is in Moscow for three days of talks aimed to expanding cooperation between the two nations. (Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) (Associated Press) November 2 at 11:37 AM
MOSCOW â" The leaders of Russia and Cuba vowed Friday to expand what they called their âstrategicâ ties and urged the United States to lift its blockade of Cuba.
In a joint statement issued after their talks, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Cuban counterpart Miguel Diaz-Canel denounced U.S. âinterference into domestic affairs of soverei gn nationsâ and spoke in support of closer integration between Russia and Latin American nations.
Diaz-Canel, who replaced Raul Castro in April in a historic changing of the guard in Cuba, hailed the âbrotherlyâ ties between Russia and Cuba and invited Putin to visit next year.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union poured billions of dollars in supplies and subsidies into Cuba, its staunchest Latin American ally. But ties withered after the 1991 Soviet collapse as Russia, hit by an economic meltdown, withdrew its economic aid to Cuba.
Putin, who visited Cuba in 2000 and 2014, has sought to revive ties with the old Caribbean ally.
Following the Kremlin talks, Putin and Diaz-Canel vowed to expand political, economic and military ties between Russia and Cuba.
Cubaâs defense minister, Leopoldo Cintra Frias, is set to visit Moscow later this month to discuss specific plans for military-technical cooperation.
Sergei Storchak, Russiaâs de puty finance minister, said Russia could offer Cuba a 38 million-euro ($43 million) loan to help fund its military modernization.
Soviet warships and military aircraft regularly used Cuban bases during the Cold War, and Cuba hosted a Soviet electronic spying outpost in Lourdes, near Havana.
Putin closed the Lourdes intelligence facility in 2001 as he sought to establish warmer ties with the United States during his first presidential term. But U.S.-Russian relations have steadily worsened, plunging to post-Cold War lows after Russiaâs 2014 annexation of Ukraineâs Crimean Peninsula, and the Kremlin has sought to rebuild ties with Cuba.
In remarks apparently directed at the United States, Putin and Diaz-Canel criticized the use of unilateral sanctions as a destabilizing factor in global affairs.
The U.S. economic embargo, initially imposed in 1958 and subsequently expanded, has remained in place. Russia, in its turn, faced an array of crippling U.S. and EU sanctions over the annexation of Crimea and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Putin said he and Diaz-Canel discussed expanding economic ties, including Russiaâs participation in the modernization of Cuban railways.
The Russian leader also mentioned Russian companies Rosneft and Zarubezhneft tapping for oil off Cuba and a contract for the Inter RAO energy company to build new generator units at a Cuban power plant.
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