also agrees to debt relief

Dmitri Medvedev and Raul Castro in Havana. Photo: Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate.

HAVANA TIMES — Russia agreed to sell Cuba eight commercial airliners valued at a total of about $650 million, as well as forgive an undisclosed part of the $30 billion debt that Moscow claims is owed it by the island, reported the Russian media on Thursday during the visit of Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev to Havana.

Raul Castro’s government placed its order for the eight passenger planes, which it will receive within the course of this year, according to statements by Trade Minister Denis Manturov to the Interfax news agency in Havana.

These involve two agreements for the delivery of three 99-passenger Antonov An-158’s, three 400-passenger Ilyushin Il-96-400’s and two 210-passenger Tupolev Tu-204SM’s.

Several of the aircraft will be delivered in March, June and August 2013, detailed the Itar-Tass news agency.

At the same time, during the meeting between Medvedev and Cuban President Raul Castro, the two nations agreed to the forgiving of a portion of the $30 billion debt that the Caribbean island is said to have with Russia.

Part of the debt will be forgiven and another part redistributed elsewhere, the Russian media reported. No details were given on specific amounts.

For decades Moscow was a strategic ally and trading partner of Cuba in the context of the Cold War. The disappearance of the Soviet Union pushed the island to the verge of collapse during the “Special Period” of the ‘90s.

Medvedev met with Castro on Thursday afternoon at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. In addition to Minister Manturov, the meeting was attended by the Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca, reported DPA news.

That same night, the Russian prime minister also met with former president Fidel Castro, who he had visited once previously on the island.

Medvedev’s state visit is focused on boosting trade and economic ties with the Cuban government, according to previous reports from the Russian government.

Both delegations confirmed their willingness to “continue to deepen ties in investment, trade and tourism in the areas of health, education, science and culture,” noted DPA.

According to the Ministry of Economic Development in Moscow, quoted by Itar-Tass before Medvedev’s departure, Russia’s trade with Cuba fell by 0.3 percent in 2012 to $170.7 million, and imports from Cuba fell by 0.1 percent to 49.6 million.

Russia exports to the island are primarily machinery and vehicles, which account for 70.3 percent of its sales to the Caribbean island, while Cuba exports mainly agricultural products (97.9 percent of its sales), according to figures from the Russian government.


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