Russian warships dock in Cuba on 'friendly visit'
HAVANA, Havana Province - Agence France-Presse
A car drives past a Russian army warship docked at Havana Port August 3, 2013. REUTERS/Desmond BoylanThree Russian warships led by the missile cruiser "Moskva" arrived Saturday in Cuba on a "friendly visit" to the communist-run island, the first such trip in four years.
The ships were greeted by an artillery salute, a naval band and a few hundred onlookers as they arrived in the Bay of Havana.
Cuba's government has said the ships are here on a "friendly visit" and that tourists will be able to visit the "Moskva" on Monday.
The two countries were close allies during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union largely propped up Cuba's state-run economy as the United States maintained a trade embargo on the island.
But oil-rich Venezuela has more recently assumed the role of Cuba's main benefactor, particularly during the 14-year reign of leftist leader Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer in March.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev paid a three-day visit to Cuba in February in which he met with Cuban President Raul Castro and his aging brother, the revolutionary icon Fidel.
During his visit, the Russian leader signed 10 bilateral agreements, including a new accord governing Cuba's outstanding debt to the former Soviet power, which is estimated to be $20-30 billion.
In August 2009 the salvage ship "Altai," part of the Russian navy's Northern Fleet, paid a four-day "working visit" to Cuba.