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Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in Havana on February 21 on the settlement of Cuba’s state debt to Russia worth over 30 billion dollars for Soviet era loans. Also the sides signed agreements on the purchase by Cuba of three An-158 and two Il-96-400 aircraft.
The settlement of the Cuban debt is an extremely unexpected event, the Kommersant daily stressed. Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Cuba was brief, and nobody expected any sensations from it. After 26 years of practical default on its foreign debt, Cuba is getting out of it.
Part of Cuba’s debt will be certainly written off. Nevertheless, the remaining part that will be determined by September in the course of consultations within the year, is expecded to be officially recognized by Cuba as its state debt, restructured for the period of ten years and will be paid off within this timeframe.
It is unclear what exactly made the Russian government settle the issue of the Cuban debt at last, the Kommersant writes. Several versions are discussed. Under one of these, Russia is hedging against possible changes of the situation in Venezuela, a major trade partner of Cuba. Under another version, this loyalty to the Cuban government may be linked to a quest for oil program of Russia’s Zarubezhneft oil company on the Cuban shelf.
A possibility to find major oil reserves (estimated at several billion barrels) on the northern coast of Cuba has been discussed since 2008. Venezuelan RdVSA, Malaysian Petronas with Zarubezhneft and Spanish Repsol had been prospecting for oil there, stating in 2012 the absence of commercial oil. But in December 2012, Zarunezhneft launched a second cycle of drilling on deeper sections of the shelf. Under an agreement with Cuba’s Cupet state company in the autumn of 2009, if oil is found Zarubezhneft has the right to sign with it an agreement on production sharing up till 2034.
Cuba will buy from Russia aircraft worth 650 million dollars, the Novye Izvestia writes quoting Russian Minister for Industry and Trade Denis Manturov. He said that an agreement on the purchase by Cuba of three An-158 planes was signed in particular. The planes will be delivered within 2013. “A second agreement concerns the supply of three Il-96-400 aircraft, that will be converted from a cargo version into a passenger one, as well as two Tu-204CH planes that will be also supplied to Cuba after tests and certification work are finished,” the minister said.
Besides, Russia and Cuba signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation on exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, a memorandum on mutual understanding between Rosatom and the Cuban Agency for Nuclear Energy and Advanced Technologies on cooperation in the sphere of nuclear medicine and the production of radiopharmaceuticals, as well as a memorandum on cooperation in the education sector, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta stresses.