Russia´s Lavrov in Havana on Latin America Drive to Shore Up Support

] Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, Cuba April 20, 2023. Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
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HAVANA, April 20 (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met on Thursday with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in Havana, the latest in a series of visits to shore up support among Russia’s closest allies in Latin America.

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.

Lavrov told reporters that Russia and Cuba, both facing sanctions from the United States, understood one another.

“We cannot agree that the world should continue to live permanently according to these American ‘rules,'” Lavrov said in the televised conference. “Tensions are being escalated in the international arena, and the West’s attempts to dictate its will and ignore the legitimate positions of others not only persist, but are growing.”

Russia´s foreign minister earlier this week visited Brazil, Venezuela and Nicaragua, meeting with the presidents and top officials in each country.

Cuba, which has been under a U.S. economic embargo since shortly after Fidel Castro´s 1959 revolution, has repeatedly expressed support for Russia in Ukraine and a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

“I do not believe that Putin provoked the conflict with Ukraine,” Diaz-Canel told Arab news outlet Al Mayadeen in March, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He characterized Cuba´s relationship with Russia as “magnificent.”

Russia donated oxygen and medical supplies to Cuba during the coronavirus pandemic, and days before invading Ukraine agreed to postpone debt payments owed by the Caribbean island nation until 2027.

Russia in February gave Cuba an “emergency” donation of 25,000 tons of wheat to combat shortages, and has provided several cargoes of fuel.

Lavrov told reporters in Havana that another such deal to provide wheat to Cuba was in the works.

Cuba, whose industry and agriculture have largely collapsed, desperately needs such aid.

Long lines for fuel, food and medicine have fanned tensions on the island and contributed to the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of its citizens in the past year.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is set to address lawmakers in Mexico on Thursday by video, as both sides seek to drum up support, and allies, across the globe.

Reporting by Dave Sherwood in Havana, additional reporting by Nelson Acosta in Havana and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Leslie Adler
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