Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, have opened informal talks at the Russian leader's hunting lodge outside Moscow.

The meeting at the Zavidovo lodge comes on the eve of formal talks at the Kremlin Friday.

Welcoming the Cuban leader, Mr. Medvedev referred to Mr. Castro's visit to the same lodge 25 years ago.  He pledged to again treat the Cuban leader to a walk in the woods and a meal of pork roasted over an open fire.

The talks are expected to focus on strengthened ties between the former Cold War allies.  The two countries also are expected to sign several agreements.

This is the first trip to Russia by a Cuban leader since 1986, when Mr. Castro's brother, Fidel Castro, visited Moscow.  Mr. Medvedev traveled to Cuba in November in a bid to build ties in Latin America.  

Last year, Russia signed a $20 million trade agreement with Cuba 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.

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