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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin to Be First Russian Leader in Cuba Since Soviet Collapse

HAVANA — Vladimir Putin will become the first Russian president to visit this communist island since the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago in an upcoming state visit, which will wind up with a restful break at Cuba's premier beach resort, Russian officials said.

Putin, who is scheduled to arrive here late Wednesday, plans to head out to Varadero on Friday afternoon for two days of private rest before continuing on to Canada on Sunday, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

Trade and ways to eliminate part of Cuba's more than $11 billion debt with Russia are among issues to be discussed during Putin's 1 1/2 days in Havana. Both countries hope the visit will breathe new life into a decades-old relationship that thrived during the Cold War era.

The number of top officials scheduled to travel with Putin is relatively small, and includes Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov is not scheduled to be in the delegation, Russian officials said. That indicates that no substantive agreements are expected during this trip on the unfinished Juragua nuclear power plant, which was being built with Soviet technical help and financing power before construction was abandoned after the breakup of the former Soviet Union.

The agenda provided by Cuban and Russian officials included an arrival ceremony late Wednesday, a meeting with President Fidel Castro on Thursday morning and a ceremony later in the afternoon honoring Cuba's monument to the Unknown Soviet Soldier.

Putin on Thursday also will meet with Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba's National Assembly, and Castro's point man on Cuba-U.S. affairs. The Russian president will also play tribute Friday to Cuban independence hero Jose Marti and visit Cuba's Institute of Genetics and Biotechnology before heading to Varadero on Friday.

Putin said this week his country must revive economic ties with Cuba or risk losing out to companies from other countries.

Putin spoke to Russian and Cuban media ahead of his planned visit Wednesday to the former Soviet ally.

Putin emphasized that Russia has no ideological agenda in the region this time around, and instead wanted practical deals that will benefit Russian business.

"Unfortunately for us, in the years when our economic contacts collapsed, many important aspects of our mutual activity were squandered, and the position of Russian enterprises were taken by foreign competitors," Putin said on Russia's ORT television channel.

Russian trade with Cuba now totals about $1 billion per year, Putin said, according to Interfax. This is down from about $3.6 billion in 1991.

For the Soviet Union, Cuba — only 145 kilometers from the U.S. coast — was a strategic outpost and ideological ally worth subsidizing. About 20 percent of Cuba's gross national product is estimated to have come from Soviet subsidies.