From the Russian side, the talks were attended by Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov and Deputy Prime Minister and Russian Co-Chair of the Russian-Cuban Intergovernmental Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation Dmitry Chernyshenko.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Prime Minister,
I am very glad to see you.
There is no need to emphasise the special, allied and long-standing nature of our relations that took shape many decades ago. You are aware of the fact that we, in Russia, have special feelings for the Island of Freedom. It has always been so.
Please convey my best wishes to Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez and, of course, Comrade Raul Castro.
Our relations are expanding despite difficulties. I am aware that a meeting of the intergovernmental commission was held not long ago. The co-chair of the intergovernmental commission from the Russian side, Mr Chernyshenko, is here now. He reported to me on the progress of this work.
I know that you have a busy programme. Quite recently, we met in Sochi, where you represented Cuba within the framework of the EAEU. Cuba has observer status with the EAEU. Your programme in Moscow is packed with many meetings as well, and then you leave for St Petersburg to participate in the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. I hope it will be both useful and interesting.
Our bilateral cooperation is even more interesting. It should cover all areas that we agreed upon, and I am sure this will be the case. It includes energy, tourism and other priority areas.
We are aware of the fact that Cuba has been living under illegal sanctions for decades, yet the Cuban people are coping with them. For our part, we will do our best to ensure that our economic cooperation helps overcome the difficulties imposed on you from outside.
We are very glad to see you. Welcome.
Prime Minister of Cuba Manuel Marrero Cruz (retranslated): Thank you very much, Mr President.
This meeting represents a great opportunity for us. I understand you have a very busy agenda and you rarely host guests at the Kremlin.
I would like to say that this is my first visit to Russia as prime minister. I must say that we enjoyed a lot of attention. Before I left for Russia, General of the Army [Raul Castro] asked me to convey his warm regards to President Putin: “Tell him that we admire him and have a lot of respect for him for his courage, and we wish him every success.”
Also, President Miguel Diaz-Canel not only asked me to send his regards, but gave me a letter to pass on to you. So, I am giving this letter to the protocol department. This letter is for you personally.
We want to congratulate you on the occasion of Russia Day, even though you marked it a day before yesterday. We saw people celebrating in the streets. On that day, we had a meeting with the Cuban Solidarity Movement in the evening. Our entire delegation took part in this meeting.
You mentioned Sochi. It was a genuinely positive experience for us, because we have taken part in these events before, but this was the first time we took part in these events in person.
I met there with the Prime Minister [Mikhail Mishustin] and prime ministers of other countries that are [EAEU] members. We had the chance to talk with the Prime Minister of Russia and discuss expanding bilateral trade and economic ties. We also discussed the challenges that we are facing due to the West’s attempts to impose more sanctions.
I thanked the Prime Minister of Russia for the role he played in making these events possible as part of the Eurasian Economic Union, which allowed us to fortify ties between our countries.
I was thinking about Comandante Fidel Castro during that meeting. I told them, if Fidel were there, he would have said: “Stick together, because there is strength in unity.” Your prime minister led all these meetings in a very professional manner. He organised the events perfectly, which helped bring our countries closer.
We take great pride in the fact that even though geographically distant, our country has become an observer state. During our meetings, we found out that opportunities for bilateral cooperation abound. We proposed holding an EAEU meeting in Havana, because this will help us discover new opportunities in our country given that Cuba has many agreements with the countries of the Caribbean and the Latin American region.
Rest assured that Cuba is strongly opposed to the unilateral Western sanctions on Russia. I would also like to assure you that we are against the West’s attempts to isolate Russia from international organisations, and the West creating Russophobia where everything coming from Russia is bad. Therefore, I must say that the West has so far failed to isolate Russia.
We see genuine strength and fortitude in your country, and we are very proud of Russia. Our country’s economy is weak, and we have been unable to grow our economy during the years of the blockade, but, as you noted, we retained our resilience and resistance. Our people continue to support the revolution, even though they have to deal with great difficulties, but rest assured that our people will put up a fight in order to be able to move forward.
We are following up on the agreements that were reached during your meeting with our President last November. Russian delegations have visited Cuba, and we are already working on ways to move specific projects forward, that is, we are very pleased with the pace at which our relations are moving. Trade and economic relations are on track to reach the level of political relations.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.