Los Angeles Times
November 28, 2008
The Russian president hits the last stop of his regional tour. Earlier he agreed to a nuclear project in Venezuela.
Reporting from Havana -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited old Cold War ally Cuba on Thursday on the last stop of a Latin American tour aimed at reviving relationships that have frayed since the Soviet Union's collapse.
Medvedev arrived in Havana from Venezuela, where he met with socialist President Hugo Chavez and agreed to help the oil-rich country start a nuclear energy program.
Russian officials deny that Medvedev's trip to Latin America -- traditionally considered in the U.S. sphere of influence -- is meant to provoke the United States, but the tour included meetings with Washington's staunchest opponents in the region.
In Havana, Medvedev was greeted by Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and Ricardo Cabrisas, the island's chief of foreign trade and investment. He was immediately sped away in a limousine without addressing reporters.
Medvedev later met with President Raul Castro, who was especially friendly with the Russians during the Soviet years. He was also expected to visit a newly consecrated Russian Orthodox cathedral in Old Havana before leaving Cuba today.
The Soviet Union was Cuba's chief source of aid and trade until its disintegration in 1991, but relations between the new Russian federation and the island soured. Then-Russian President Vladimir Putin visited in 2000 to strengthen ties but reminded Havana that it should pay its Soviet-era debt.
Shortly after Putin's visit, Moscow closed a Cold War-era electronic spying facility in Lourdes, just outside Havana, and it has been converted into a computer sciences university.
Earlier Thursday, Medvedev and Chavez toured a Russian destroyer docked in a Venezuelan port, one of two large Russian warships that arrived this week for training exercises.
Moscow plans to develop a nuclear cooperation program with Venezuela by the end of next year, said Sergei V. Kiriyenko, head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency.
Chavez says Venezuela hopes to build a nuclear reactor for energy purposes.