Russias Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov says his country will forgive part of Cubas US$25 billion Soviet-era debt and restructure the rest as part of agreements that include Havana getting Russian jetliners worth US$650 million.
On an official visit in Havana, Manturov told reporters that Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and Ricardo Cabrisas, vice president of the Council of Ministers, had initialled the debt agreement, adding that the details would be worked out by the end of the year.
He said the restructuring would be spread out over the next 10 years, disclosing that the agreement was signed in front of visiting Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Cuban President Raśl Castro.
Russia has said that it is the legal holder of all debts to the former Soviet Union, putting Cubas debt at US$25 billion, although most of it is in difficult-to-calculate Gold Rubles. The Soviets created the currency for its international trade.
Manturov also disclosed that Russian and Cuban authorities have agreed that Havana would obtain eight Russian-made commercial jetliners worth US$650 million.
The Industry and Trade Minister said Havana and Moscow signed off on at least seven agreements covering trade, tourism, education, nuclear medicine, the environment, telecommunications and space including satellite navigation, space probes and space medicine.
The Soviet Union was Cubas main source of financial and political support from the mid 1960s to the early 1990s, when communism collapsed in the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc dissolved. Observers say bilateral relations between Moscow and Havana started to improve in 2005 when Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to expand political and commercial links to the region. Russian firms are now exploring for oil off Cubas northern coast.
Medvedev arrived in Havana from Brazil Thursday for his second visit to Cuba. He last visited Havana in 2008 when he was president of Russia. Raśl Castro visited Moscow last July during a trip that also took him to China and Vietnam.