The Installation of the Russian Bank Novikombank in Cuba Seeks To Avoid US Sanctions

The president of the bank pointed out that Putin “pays special attention to strengthening cooperation” between the two countries

The event was attended by the president of the Central Bank of Cuba (BCC), Juana Lilia Delgado; Ricardo Cabrisas, the Russian ambassador, Víctor Koronelli, and the head of the Russian commercial office, Sergey Baldin / Prensa Latina

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 23, 2024 — “Developing an independent financial infrastructure” capable of dodging United States sanctions is the main purpose of Novikombank, the first Russian bank on the Island. This was stated by Sergei Baldin, head of the Russian commercial office in Havana, who presented the bank’s objectives during its opening ceremony last Thursday at the Meliá Cohiba hotel.

“The presence here of Novikombank offers hope to fulfill development projects and investments in various areas in the future and offers confidence to the Russian business community to operate in Cuba,” the official said in front of a committee of invited businessmen from both countries and the Cuban Deputy Prime Minister, Ricardo Cabrisas, who has led the approach to the Kremlin in recent years. For Havana, the financial entity – connected to the largest state corporation in the Kremlin, Rostec – is a direct corridor through which entrepreneurs, investments and many rubles will enter.

Cabrisas dedicated many words to the friendship between the two countries and attributed the arrival of Novikombank to the “consensus reached between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Miguel Díaz-Canel.” In addition, he described the alliance as a victory against the United States’ “persecution” of the Cuban banking sector, whose most obvious expression – he considered – is the inclusion of the Island on the list of sponsors of state terrorism, drafted by the US State Department.

Cabrisas pointed out that Cuba seeks to attract foreign capital “without selling the country,” a risk that, he believes, is not run with Russia

Aware of the existence of a current of opinion within the Cuban regime that considers the rapprochement between Havana and Moscow dangerous, Cabrisas pointed out that Cuba seeks to attract foreign capital “without selling the country,” a risk that, he believes, is not run with Russia.

As for Novikombank’s plans, the deputy prime minister assures that both governments play a key role: Havana, as a facilitator, must offer incentives to Russian business, and Moscow’s mission is to “support” the interests of that sector, although the type of aid and benefits was not clarified.

Clues about the operation of the financial institution have been offered by the Russian side. In a statement quoted by Sputnik, the president of the Board of Directors of Novikombank, Elena Georgieva, explained that this is just the first step in banking relations between the two countries, and it is expected that very soon other entities will begin to settle on the Island.

Georgieva commented on the speed of the Cuban side to allow the establishment of the bank, much earlier than planned, with which three banking entities on the Island have been working for eight years. Last March, when Cabrisas traveled to Moscow as part of an intergovernmental commission for economic-commercial and scientific-technical collaboration, talks on Novikombank began. A month later, in April, the Central Bank of Cuba granted the operating license to the company, and this June the inauguration of its headquarters – whose address remains undisclosed – became a fact.

“This is a very important event for Russian-Cuban cooperation, which we believe will continue to develop actively. Our initial task here is to guarantee stable payments between the two countries,” explained Georgieva, who stressed the special interest in this alliance of Putin, who, he added, “pays special attention to strengthening cooperation with the Republic of Cuba.”

“The opening of our representative office can contribute both in terms of advice and financing of various projects and areas of activity,” said the board, which added that other banks would also approach Havana, which will contribute to the “development of the collaboration.”

The idea was repeated last Thursday at the Meliá Cohiba by the head of the Russian commercial office, who assured that “the plans are becoming a reality,” thanks to Russia’s involvement in key areas of the Cuban economy such as energy, basic industry, metallurgy, transport, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and tourism. As he pointed out, these investments have been the basis for Russian banks to settle in Cuba and expand their activities in the future.

These investments have been the basis for Russian banks to establish themselves in Cuba and expand their activities in the future

Ties with Novikombank mark the realization of relations between Cuba and the gigantic state conglomerate Rostec, responsible for the arrival on the Island of a shipment of 15,000 LED lights last March, and the modern Ural trucks that the Armed Forces have deployed on several occasions in the streets of the capital.

Rostec, created in 2007 by Putin, is a corporation designed to control all key sectors of the Russian economy by the State, from civil engineering and medicine to the high-tech war industry. In fact, the conglomerate is especially known for its helicopters and weapons of war, very popular in the international market. Another of the sectors that Rostec controls is the oil industry, an area in which the Island is particularly interested.

Cuba has spent months preparing for the opening of Russian banking, and last December it implemented the use of Mir cards, an alternative to Visa and Mastercard for Russian tourists and businessmen, created to evade sanctions.

Relations between Havana and the Kremlin have been intense in recent weeks – since Putin’s re-election – with the visit of Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez to Moscow, the arrival of a Russian flotilla in Havana – including a nuclear submarine and an oil tanker with a capacity of 9,000 tons – and now the establishment of a definitive channel for money to flow between Russia and Cuba without sanctions.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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