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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin shake hands with Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz during a meeting in Moscow, Russia June 13, 2023. Sputnik/Dmitry Astakhov/Pool via REUTERS

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HAVANA (Reuters) – A delegation of high-level Cuban officials wrapped up an extended visit to Russia, according to state-run media reports on Tuesday, following up on the nearly 30 trade agreements signed between the allies in Havana in May.

Longtime political allies Cuba and Russia – both subject to U.S. sanctions – have sharply increased economic ties by facilitating trade and investment to circumvent those restrictions.

The 11-day trip by Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero and Foreign Vice Minister Gerardo Penalver came on the heels of a trade forum in May in which the allies agreed to work together to boost Cuba´s sugar and rum exports, assure coveted wheat and supply to the Communist-run island and overhaul crumbling tourist facilities.

“We must look for new avenues to carry out our economic relations outside the scope of … the (U.S.) dollar, which is giving way more and more to a multipolar world, and where other actors such as China, India and Russia acquire greater relevance,” Penalver told state-run media outlet CubaDebate upon returning to Havana.

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Marrero met with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Mishustin as well as with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Communist-run Cuba has been under a wide-reaching U.S. trade embargo since shortly after Fidel Castro´s 1959 revolution. Those restrictions, reinforced by then-U.S. President Donald Trump, have contributed to a nearly unprecedented economic crisis that has led to shortages of food, fuel and medicine.

Russia is ready to supply Cuba with 1.64 million tonnes of oil and oil products annually, Russian news agencies reported last week, citing Marrero.

Fuel, especially, has been in short supply in Cuba since March, forcing the government to ration and prompting day´s long queues for gasoline, further crippling the economy.

Penalver said the second half of 2023 would see Russian airline Aeroflot renew flights to the island and bring 1,200 employees of Russian state-run oil firm Rosneft to relax and receive medical check-ups.


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