Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Begins His Ninth Visit to Cuba in 20 Years

Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in April 2023, in Havana. (Presidency of Cuba)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 19 February 2024 — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a brief visit on Monday to Cuba, one of Russia’s main allies in Latin America, with whom it has strengthened bilateral political and economic cooperation in recent months.

This will be Lavrov’s ninth visit to the Island since his appointment to the position in 2004, as highlighted by the chanceller’s office of Havana when announcing the trip of the Russian leader, who will later travel to Venezuela and Brazil.

The announced program – about twenty-four hours long – revolves around interviews with President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez.

Although the brief announcement of Lavrov’s second trip to Cuba in less than a year does not refer to the issues to be addressed in those conversations, they are expected to review the bilateral relationship, as well as current international issues such as the conflict in Ukraine.

The statement does not refer to the issues to be addressed, but it is expected that the bilateral relationship will be reviewed, as well as current international issues such as the conflict in Ukraine

They may also discuss preparations for a visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Island in response to the invitation sent by Díaz-Canel at the end of 2022.

In his previous stay in Havana, in April 2023, Lavrov said he valued the “progress” in commercial exchange after President Díaz-Canel’s visit to Moscow a few months earlier.

Cuba’s worst economic crisis in decades, with shortages of food, medicine and fuel, is a vital subject for discussion, especially after the commitments endorsed last May to increase Russian financial and business presence on the Island.

At that time a bilateral business economic forum took place in Havana with the presence of more than 150 representatives of the private sectors of Russia and Cuba.

The head of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Ricardo Cabrisas, confirmed that Russian capital would be present in strategic sectors such as transport, logistics, agriculture, sugar, tourism, construction and industry.

To encourage that presence, Havana would provide Russian businesses with “preferential treatment,” tax-free imports, the presence of Russian banks and currency exchange.

In recent months, in addition to the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the president of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin, the presidential adviser Maxim Oreshkin and the deputy prime minister Dmitry Chernyshenko have visited the Cuban capital.

Lavrov thanked Cuba in 2023 for its “full understanding” of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is backed by Havana.

Last summer, several media outlets from outside the Island reported the presence of Cuban mercenaries fighting alongside Russian troops in the invasion of Ukraine, including testimonies from several of them and their relatives.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry then stated that “Cuba is not part of the war in Ukraine,” and rejected “mercenarism” and the participation of its citizens in “any conflict”

The Foreign Affairs Ministry then stated that “Cuba is not part of the military conflict in Ukraine,” and rejected “mercenarism” and the participation of its citizens in “any conflict.”

He also announced last September the dismantling of a network that allegedly recruited Cubans to fight in Ukraine, an operation in which 17 people were said to be arrested.

Cuba and Russia have promoted their bilateral relationship in recent years to try to restore the close cooperation they maintained until the disappearance of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Russia is one of Cuba’s top ten trading partners, and both governments define their association as “strategic.”

In November 2022, Díaz-Canel and Putin discussed development prospects for the Russian-Cuban strategic partnership in the political, economic, commercial, cultural and humanitarian spheres, as well as management of the debt that Cuba has with Russia. Several agreements were signed, including one concerning the supply of oil.

Díaz-Canel has declared his country’s “will” to take political dialogue and bilateral economic and commercial relations with Russia to “a higher level.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.