MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (R) and Cuban President Raul Castro shake hands during their meeting at the Gorki residence outside Moscow, Russia, 11 July 2012. EPA photo
Cuban leader Raul Castro prepared Wednesday to meet Russian
President Vladimir Putin after touring China
and Vietnam in hopes of winning new aid from old allies for his sanctions-plagued communist state.
The visit is Castro's second to Russia
since his 2006 assumption of power from older brother Fidel and extends a recent flurry of contacts that had ground to a halt when the Soviet Union fell two decades ago.
Castro began his visit by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin walls ahead of talks with Putin -- their second since the Russian
leader's days as prime minister in February 2009.
He also met the head of Russia's powerful National Security Council Nikolai Patrushev for talks Moscow said focused on "regional and international affairs".
The Kommersant business daily said Cuba was particularly interested in winning military agreements that could help Castro modernise his Soviet-era force of outdated tanks and submarines as well as other technology.
Kommersant noted however that this would put Russia's state arms export agency in conflict with US
sanctions and that a 2010 request by Cuba to update its update its Kalashnikov bullet production plant has gone unfulfilled.
A formal Kremlin statement announcing Castro's arrival said the talks would focus on boosting trade and broader economic cooperation while making no mention of possible military contacts.
Castro's meeting with Putin comes after he had won a promise in Beijing of financial aid and a credit-line from Chinese President Hu Jintao.
He followed that visit with talks with Vietnam's communist leadership in Hanoi and received the strongman leader of Belarus in Havana on June 25.
Washington's trade embargo on Cuba over its right record began crippling the island's economy once Moscow withdrew both its troops and assistance with the end of the Cold War.