Havana: President Vladimir Putin visited Russia`s Cold War ally Cuba on Friday, launching a tour that will see him cozy up to Latin America amid newly frayed relations 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 multi-polar world at a time when the Crimea crisis has brought Moscow-Washington relations to a post-Cold War low.
Putin said before his 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 he will also use his talks in Latin America 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 Ukrainian separatists.
Before departing, Putin -- who has sought to drive a wedge between the Western allies -- condemned the cyber-spying revealed by fugitive US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, who is currently in Russia on asylum.
"As for the facts of cyber-espionage, this is not just blatant hypocrisy in relations between allies and partners," Putin said in a joint interview with Russia`s ITAR-TASS news agency and Cuba`s Prensa Latina.
"It is also direct infringement of a country`s sovereignty and a breach of human rights, an invasion of privacy."
The remark came after Germany expelled the CIA station chief in Berlin yesterday over alleged spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel, which has opened its worst diplomatic rift with the US in years.
Putin arrived early today at Havana`s Jose Marti International Airport, where he was welcomed by First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Russian diplomats and other officials, Prensa Latina said.
His agenda includes official talks with his counterpart Raul Castro and a meeting with the Cuban president`s older brother Fidel, the father of the island`s communist revolution.
Havana has sided with its old ally Russia in the Ukraine conflict, and the Russian strongman, whose country is facing the threat of new Western sanctions, is expected to get a sympathetic ear from the 87-year-old commandante.