Castro Arrives for 8-Day Visit Aimed at Boosting Trade Ties

ReutersCastro reviewing an honor guard after landing in Moscow on Wednesday.
Cuban President Raul Castro arrived in Russia on Wednesday for an eight-day visit intended to boost ties between the former Cold War allies.

Castro, the younger brother of ailing former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, was expected to meet President Dmitry Medvedev, who visited Cuba in November of last year, at his residence just outside Moscow on Thursday.

The two will sign several bilateral agreements on oil cooperation, Prime-Tass reported. Russian oil firms want to drill offshore, and its military has talked about cooperation with Havana on air-defense systems.

A bespectacled Castro stepped off a jet into Moscow's freezing weather to be greeted by a military band and a salute at Vnukovo Airport.

"From this visit, we hope to strengthen and consolidate what we have already achieved together, and it is necessary to make one more step in this direction," Castro said in an interview shown on state-run Vesti-24 television.

"Fidel personally expressed his support for Russia," he said in the interview, which was recorded before his departure for Moscow.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he expected Castro's visit to "mark an important milestone" in bilateral ties.

In an interview with the Cuban government press agency Prensa Latina posted Wednesday on his ministry's web site, Lavrov said Castro and Russian leaders will discuss the global issues, including the situation in the Caribbean and efforts to increase economic ties.

(AP, Reuters)