HAVANA, March 5 (Reuters) – Russian oil firm Rosneft’s CEO Igor Sechin met with Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel late on Saturday, the island’s leader said, amid an acute fuel shortage that has service stations temporarily shuttered and hours-long gasoline queues.
Sechin told Diaz-Canel that, when it comes to issues related to Cuba, “Putin supervises them directly and personally”, Diaz-Canel’s office said in a statement released via Twitter.
Several tweets on Cuba’s Presidency account emphasized the good relations between the two countries, but did not specify the reason for the visit by the state-run oil firm’s boss.
Sechin is set to travel to Venezuela for the tenth anniversary of the death of the South American country’s former president Hugo Chavez, a close ally of both Cuba and Russia.
Cuba’s former leader Raul Castro has also flown to Caracas for the occasion, Cuban state-run media said.
Communist-run Cuba is battling through its worst economic crisis in decades, its output decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. sanctions and an inefficient centrally planned economy that has struggled to respond to the challenges.
Hours-long lines for food, fuel and medicine have ravaged the island and contributed to a mass exodus of Cubans in the past year, many headed north to the United States.
Russia in February gave Cuba an “emergency” donation of 25,000 tons of wheat to combat shortages on the island, the second such gift in a year and a sign of deepening ties between the two long-time allies.
Russia, hit by Western sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine, is looking to strengthen political and economic ties with other countries opposed to what it calls U.S. hegemony.
Cuba has been under a U.S. economic embargo since 1962 after a Communist revolution led by former leader Fidel Castro.