Cuba and Russia strengthened bilateral relations in the political and economic spheres with the official visit to Havana of President Vladimir Putin, who hailed the Caribbean nation's "strategic" importance in Moscow's foreign policy.

Putin, whose 2000 journey to Havana opened a "second phase" in ties between the two countries, chose Russia's oldest ally in Latin America as the first stop on a regional tour that will also take him to Argentina and Brazil.

The Russian president met Friday with Cuban counterpart Raul Castro and his 87-year-old brother Fidel, the leader of the 1959 Cuban Revolution who formally resigned the presidency in 2008 after being stricken with a serious gastrointestinal illness...

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