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Vladimir Putin receives Raul Castro

July 12, 2012, 12:35 UTC+3
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On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin received 81-year-old Cuban leader Raul Castro at the countryside residence. No official documents were signed on the results of the visit.

During the meeting, they embraced each other and said they were very gald to meet, the Russian government daily newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, writes. “Cuba is our ancient partner and friend,” Putin told Castro. The Russian president asked his Cuban colleague to convey the best wishes to “our big friend Fidel Castro”. The Cuban leader was glad to arrive in Moscow again and he did not hide his feelings. He thanked the Russian leadership for the quick organization of the visit that he asked Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev about during the U.N. Rio+20 Conference in Rio de Janeiro. Castro visited Moscow in 2009 and the weather was very cold. “Today I have a feeling that I would arrive in Havana,” he smiled.

Castro explained that his visit continued the contacts, which both parties had maintained at the high level in recent years. According to the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily newspaper, in the summer 2006 Fidel Castro handed over the powers to his brother Raul because of the health condition. Sometime later Junior Castro was officially elected chairman of the Council of State of Cuba and the Cabinet. Under the Constitution, he became supreme commander-in-chief of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces. Last April he was elected first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

Junior Castro is not so young – in the beginning of the summer he has turned 81. But it seems that the age has no impact on his leadership skills and his character. He is trying to preserve socialism in Cuba (he considers the multi-party system a threat) and improve it through modernization – a kind of perestroika in the Cuban style. Last year Cubans were pledged to expand the private economic sector and reduce bureaucratic structures. For the first time since the 1959 Revolution the Cuban leadership has authorized to sell and buy housing and automobiles. Hundreds of political prisoners were amnestied.

It is remarkable that since the very beginning Cuba has stated that Raul Castro intends to visit the Tomb of Unknown Soldier (this is the obligatory part of the visit of any foreign leader to Moscow) and the Mausoleum, including the section, which is closed for ordinary people, the Kommersant weekly newspaper writes. Castro wanted to make a bow to “the corpse of Great Vladimir Iliych Lenin at Moscow’s Mausoleum”.

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