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Russia, Cuba Sign Cooperation Agreements

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro have met at the Kremlin, with officials from the two sides signing a series of agreements to boost cooperation.

The two leaders have agreed to bring the relationship between the former Cold War allies to the level of "strategic partnership."

Plans for cooperation include a pledge by Russia to give Cuba loans to buy Russian agricultural and industrial equipment. Russia also promised to supply 25,000 tons of grain to help resolve the island's food problem.

President Castro is in Russia for a week-long visit aimed at boosting bilateral ties. Mr. Medvedev called the visit an important "landmark" in Russia-Cuba relations.

This is the first trip to Russia by a Cuban leader since 1986, when Mr. Castro's brother, Fidel Castro, traveled to Moscow.

The Russian leader traveled to Cuba in November in a bid to bolster ties.

Last year, the two sides signed a $20 million trade agreement to expand economic cooperation.

The Soviet Union was Cuba's main benefactor during the Cold War, but the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 battered Cuba's economy and strained relations between Havana and Moscow.

After the talks, Russia's deputy prime minister, Igor Sechin, said the Russian airline Aeroflot and Cuban aviation company Cubana de Aviacion are considering setting up a joint venture.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.