Monday 19 February 2018

Putin cosies up to old Soviet Union ally Castro

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Philip Sherwell

It was like old times in Havana as Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who has tried to rekindle the old Soviet sphere of influence, met Fidel Castro, the veteran Cuban Cold War warrior.

The Russian leader arrived in Cuba to begin a Latin American tour courting stronger trade and diplomatic ties in the US "backyard" as Moscow's relations with Washington fester over Ukraine.

Mr Putin laid a wreath at Havana's Memorial to the Soviet Internationalist Soldier in Revolution Square with Raul Castro, the communist island's leader.

The bout of ceremonial nostalgia evidently confused the Cuban dictator, who accidentally referred to the Soviet Union in public remarks, before correcting himself to say Russia.

Mr Putin met Fidel Castro (87), the father of the Cuban revolution and long-time nemesis of Washington, a role that the Russian leader now plays with gusto.

The two men posed, smiling, for photos, with the elder Castro wearing the trademark tracksuit that has replaced his old military fatigues since he handed over the reins of power to his brother because of illness.

Itar-Tass, the Russian news agency, said they discussed topics ranging from international affairs and the world economy to Russian-Cuban relations.

Their shared antipathy for US foreign policy doubtless also came up.

Cuba has supported Moscow's stance on Ukraine, with state media portraying Russia as backing its ethnic compatriots against right-wing extremists.

"In the international arena, we agree with the current policy of strength and political intelligence that the Soviet Union - I mean Russia - is carrying out," Raul Castro said.

Mr Putin left Cuba for Argentina, whose president, Cristina Kirchner, has accused the US and Britain of double standards for criticising a pro-Russian secession vote in Crimea while backing a 
status referendum in the 

He will then go on to Brazil. Speaking in Havana, he took a clear swipe at US dominance of the region as he offered Russian backing for "a strong, economically stable and politically independent, united Latin America".


Sunday Independent

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