Medvedev Visits Cuba, Hails Close Economic, Political Ties

Russia-Cuba ties have a “brilliant” future, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday as he arrived in Havana for a two-day visit, Reuters reports.

Medvedev, who was welcomed at Havana’s airport by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, said the meeting “once again showed that Cuba is a really important ally of Russia in Latin America.”

Medvedev’s visit comes as the island country goes through a new economic crisis while under severe U.S. sanctions.

U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a hard line on Cuba, ramping back moves by his predecessor, Barack Obama, to improve ties between the countries, which lie about 150 kilometers apart off the coast of Florida. The U.S. administration has assailed Havana for its alleged human rights violations and criticized Moscow for its support for the island country’s communist government.

“Not everyone likes the dialogue between Russia and Cuba,” Medvedev said. “In the last months, the United States has expanded Cuba’s energy blockade. We also see an intention to create a toxic atmosphere around Russian-Cuban cooperation, to scare away investors, and in fact impose an energy blockade on the island.”

He added that “such attempts will not have any results, just like attempts to exert pressure on our country will not have any success as well.”

According to a statement on the Russian government’s website, Medvedev will discuss “topical issues of Russian-Cuban cooperation in trade, economic, investment, energy, transport, cultural, and humanitarian, and other fields.” A number of bilateral accords and commercial contracts will be signed after the talks, though no specifics were given. Two areas hit hardest by the difficulties, the oil and transportation industries may receive Russian assistance.

A key ally of the former Soviet Union, Cuba still enjoys warm relations with Russia as well as with trade partners Venezuela, China, Spain, and Canada.

Last month, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov said trade turnover between Russia and Cuba had increased by 34 percent to $388 million in 2018 and was expected to reach $500 million this year.