Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top security adviser and close ally, Nikolai Patrushev, traveled to Havana this week and met the country’s former leader, Raúl Castro, in what Cuban media described as a “working visit.”
On Wednesday night, Cuban state television showed images of the aged Cuban leader, 91, who is officially retired, hugging Patrushev, who then greeted Miguel Díaz-Canel, the country’s appointed president.
Patrushev, 71, a hardliner who served with Putin in the KGB, the Soviet Union’s intelligence agency, later directed its successor, the Federal Security Service. He later became a general and is currently secretary of the Russian Security Council.
Cuban and Russian media have been scarce on the details of the visit. According to the Russian news agency TASS, Patrushev will hold “expanded Russian-Cuban inter-agency consultations on security issues” in Havana.
Division general Lázaro Alberto Álvarez Casas, the head of the Ministry of the Interior, which manages the country’s various intelligence agencies, was also at the meeting, along with other Russian security officials who traveled with Patrushev. No other Cuban officials appeared in photos and videos released by Cuban state media.
Unlike Putin, who rarely traveled last year, Patrushev, one of the staunchest defenders of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has been traveling abroad trying to rally support for the war and cement economic ties with other nations to counter U.S. and European economic sanctions.
Earlier this week, Patrushev visited Venezuela, where he met with Venezuela strongman Nicolas Maduro.
Patrushev has traveled to Cuba several times, most recently in 2019, as the two countries have been strengthening economic and military ties. The Cuban government ramped up trade and imports of Russian oil last year and recently announced it is seeking Russian advice to expand the private sector on the island. The Russian government also agreed to delay Cuban debt repayments till 2027.
The Cuban government is part of a group of nations in the developing world that either voted with Russia or abstained in critical votes at the United Nations to condemn Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Cuban state media routinely publishes Russian war propaganda.
© Miami Herald