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Russia vows to develop Cuban energy sector strangled by US blockade

Russia vows to develop Cuban energy sector strangled by US blockade
Moscow is planning to cooperate on nuclear energy with Havana, and wants to help develop Cuba’s oil and gas resources, a government official said as PM Dmitry Medvedev visited the country for the first time in 11 years.

The head of the Russian government began his two-day trip to Cuba on Thursday amid escalating tensions between Washington and Havana. Both Russia and Cuba are under Western pressure, Medvedev said, slamming the US for trying to create a “toxic atmosphere” and an “energy blockade” of the island.

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“But Cuba’s experience resisting the blockade for nearly 60 years shows that this policy will fail,” the Russian prime minister said.

Russia closely cooperates with Cuba in the energy sector, and year-on-year oil exports to the country increased nearly four-fold in the first half of 2019, according to Russia’s First Deputy Chief of Staff Sergey Prikhodko.

Moscow is also ready to boost efforts to reduce Havana’s import dependence and raise energy security as the two states’ energy ministries signed a roadmap for the participation of Russian companies in the program to develop Cuba’s energy sector.

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Moscow is also ready to help with the development of nuclear energy on the island if the Cuban government decides to build nuclear power plants. Meanwhile, the two sides are also working on other possible ways to use nuclear-powered technology.

“At present, we are discussing a wide range of so-called non-energy use of peaceful atoms. More specifically, we are discussing the use of nuclear technologies in medicine and agriculture,” Prikhodko said.

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In attempt to revive the Cuban energy sector, Russia plans to invest up to €700 million ($769 million) to overhaul 10 power generation units at three thermal power plants in Cuba. The official said that borrowed capital will be attracted to implement the project. Russia’s Inter RAO – Export and Cuba’s state electricity company Energoimport have already agreed on the project’s roadmap and are expected to sign the contract next year.

Medvedev became the highest-profile Russian official to visit Cuba since 2014, when President Vladimir Putin visited the country. Last time Medvedev himself visited Cuba was back in 2008, when he was the Russian president.

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