السبت , مايو 15 2021

Putin continues Latin America tour

Ms Fernandez may be hoping for some Russian help with Argentina’s economic crisis

Russian President Vladimir Putin is visiting Latin America in an apparent bid to seek allies to counter US and Western influence.

He spent Friday in Cuba – the first stop of his tour – before making an unexpected visit to Nicaragua, the first by a Russian leader.

Mr Putin is now in Argentina, where he will meet left-wing regional heads of state.

He goes onto Brazil to attend the football World Cup final on Sunday.

Russia will host the next tournament in 2018.

Later Mr Putin will attend a summit of the Brics emerging economies – also including India, China and South Africa – in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza.

‘Grateful for support’

Mr Putin has been holding bilateral talks with Argentinian President Christina Fernandez.

Correspondents say Argentina is desperate for foreign investment as it faces a possible default after investors rejected its debt restructuring.

The Russian president will then have dinner with other South American leaders including the presidents of Venezuela, Bolivia and Uruguay.

“Today, co-operation with Latin American states is one of the key and promising lines of Russia’s foreign policy,” Mr Putin told Cuban state media.

“We are grateful to South Americans for the support of our international initiatives,” the Russian leader added.

Mr Putin is looking to tighten ties with this region, partly to balance a slump in relations with the West over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford in Havana reports.

He is stressing support for a strong and united Latin America, as part of what he calls a “multi-polar world”, our correspondent adds.

Mr Putin and Cuban President Raul Castro visited a cemetery in the Cuban capital to commemorate Soviet soldiers.

Mr Putin met Cuban President Raul Castro (right) and his brother, former leader Fidel Castro

Mr Putin attended a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate Soviet soldiers

He later met Fidel Castro, who led Cuba for nearly half a century before handing over power to his brother, Raul, in 2006 because of ill health.

Russian media said they discussed international relations and Russian-Cuban ties.

‘Emerging world order’

Mr Putin was also expected to discuss the progress of an agreement signed last year which cancels 90% of Cuba’s $35.2bn Soviet-era debt to Russia and channels the remaining 10% into joint investment projects in the country.

The deal was ratified by the upper house of the Russian parliament on Wednesday.

Relations between Cuba and Russia declined after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 but have improved in recent years.

Russia is involved in oil exploration offshore and began drilling a development well last year.

Mr Putin said Russian companies were interested in investing in reinforced plastic products, car parts and heavy equipment for the railway industry.

Mr Putin will attend the World Cup final in Brazil on Sunday as head of the next host nation.

In an interview on the eve of his trip, the Russian president said Brazil was one of a group of emerging countries which should play a greater role on the world stage.

“This powerful and fast-developing country is destined to play an important role in the emerging polycentric world order,” he said, adding that Russia would back Brazil’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

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