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Putin in Cuba, Nicaragua to rekindle LatAm ties

MANAGUA -- Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise stop in Nicaragua Friday after visiting his nation's Cold War ally Cuba, part of a tour to increase Moscow's influence in Latin America amid frayed ties with the West.

Putin's six-day trip will also take him to Argentina and Brazil, where he will take part in a summit of the BRICS group of emerging countries — an agenda that neatly aligns with his push for a multipolar world at a time when the Ukraine crisis has brought Moscow-Washington relations to a post-Cold War low.

Leftist President Daniel Ortega, whose country was close to the Soviet Union under the Sandinista regime of the 1980s, welcomed Putin at the airport along with his wife and the head of Nicaragua's army.

“This is the first time that a Russian president visits Nicaragua,” a beaming Ortega said at a brief airport media event.

Through an interpreter Putin said that his government intends to continue strengthening economic with the Nicaragua.

Putin said before the trip that he has his eye on Latin America's oil and bauxite, and plans to woo regional leaders with offers of increased Russian investment and trade in return.

Analysts say that Putin is also using the tour to thumb his nose at Brussels and Washington, which have slapped sanctions on some of his closest allies over Moscow's takeover of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

Moscow is seeking comprehensive technological partnerships with Latin America in the oil and gas sector, hydropower, nuclear energy, aircraft construction and the bio pharmaceutical industry, Putin told Cuba's state news agency Prensa Latina.

Fidel Castro Talks

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Cuba's Fidel Castro, right, speaks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, in Havana, Cuba, Friday, July 11. (AP)

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