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Latin America

Russia's Putin arrives in Cuba at start of Latin America tour

Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Cuba on the first leg of a tour of Latin America. Cuba's state media reported he was welcomed by officials in Havana.

President Putin touched down at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana early Friday.

Cuba's Prensa Latina news agency reported that the Russian leader was greeted on the tarmac by First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Russian diplomats and other officials.

Cuba is the Russian president's first stop of a tour of Latin America that will also see him visit Argentina and Brazil.

It's Putin's second visit to the communist nation in more than a decade. His itinerary includes official talks with Cuban President Raul Castro. The Kremlin also said Putin is scheduled to meet with the father of the Cuban Revolution, 87-year-old Fidel Castro.

Trade talks dominate visit

In recent years, Moscow has sought to revive ties with Cuba. Its economy has been weighed down by a US economic embargo since 1962.

The AFP news agency said ahead of the visit, Russia wrote off 90 percent of Cuba's Soviet-era debt totalling more than 30 billion dollars.

The Kremlin said bilateral talks would take place during Putin's visit to develop trade, economic and investment ties, along with joint projects in energy, transport, healthcare and civil aviation.

The talks are expected to conclude with the signing of several bilateral agreements.

Putin is scheduled to visit Argentina on Saturday and attend the World Cup final in Brazil on Sunday.

He is also expected to attend a summit of the BRICS group of emerging economies next week.

The start of Putin's six-day tour of the region comes amid further conflict in eastern Ukraine.

lw/msh (AFP, dpa)

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