07 May 2024, 09:31

Cuban president to visit Russia as nations draw closer

HAVANA, May 7, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel announced Monday he is heading to Russia on a "working visit," as old allies Havana and Moscow strengthen ties under a recently initiated rapprochement.

Cuba and Russia have drawn closer since 2022, with an increasingly isolated Moscow seeking new diplomatic and trading partners.

"The president left for Russia this evening," the Cuban presidency posted Monday on X, formerly Twitter.

Diaz-Canel additionally said on X that he was making the "working visit to Russia to address the bilateral agenda priorities following the reelection of Vladimir Putin."

The Russian leader, who has led the country as either president or prime minister since the turn of the century, was reelected in March, though he had faced no real opposition.

Diaz-Canel previously traveled to Moscow to meet with Putin in 2022.

In February, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Havana for the second time in less than a year.

Cuba has maintained a neutral stance on the war in Ukraine, calling for a negotiated solution to end the conflict, and has refused to condemn the Russian offensive.

Under US embargo since 1962, Cuba is facing its worst economic crisis in three decades, and has received Russian oil to help ease a crushing shortage of fuel.

Cuba and the USSR were close allies during the Cold War, but that cooperation ended abruptly in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet bloc.

As they work on repairing ties, the allies have signed cooperation agreements in the areas of construction, information technology, banking, sugar, transport and tourism.

Last September, however, Cuba announced it had made arrests over the alleged trafficking of its citizens to fight for Russia in Ukraine.

No information on the investigation has been forthcoming since.

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