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July 12, 2014

Putin Begins Latin America Tour in Cuba

by VOA News

Russia's president has begun a six-day tour of Latin American countries.

Vladimir Putin's first stop Friday was Cuba where he met with Cuban President Raul Castro.

The two countries signed a number of accords, including one that forgives 90 percent of Cuba's Russian debt, totaling more than $30 billion, and another that allows for the exploration of oil off Cuba's northern coast.

Putin also had an hour-long meeting with Fidel Castro, the "Father of the Cuban Revolution."

The Russian leader flew to Nicaragua Friday night for a one-hour meeting with President Daniel Ortega.  

Putin then flew to Argentina where he will meet with President Cristina Fernandez.

The Russian president plans to attend a summit of the BRICS group of nations: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa --  being held in Brazil. 

Putin's journey to Latin America comes as he is under pressure from the West to help restrain pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine and urge them to find a negotiated solution.  

Putin is scheduled to be in Rio de Janeiro Sunday for the World Cup final where Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will officially hand over World Cup responsibilities to the Russian leader, whose country hosts the next global tournament in 2018.