A 300-feet Russian intelligence warship docked quietly in Havana Tuesday is fueling speculation about the renewal of diplomatic relations with the U.S.
Its arrival, on the eve of a historic meeting between Cuba and the United States, was not announced by Cuban authorities or the press. The Viktor Leonov CCB-175 entered the Bay of Havana in the morning and was moored to a pier often used by cruise ships, the AFP news agency reported.
The Vishnya ship, also called Meridian-class intelligence ship, has a crew of around 200. This same ship, the AFP reports, docked in Havana in two separate occasions over a year ago. Those visits were also announced and lasted a few days.
The port call came as a U.S. delegation that includes Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson, is set to meet Wednesday with a Cuban counterpart headed by the United States director at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal.
The meeting is being called “historical” because it’s the highest-level delegation to visit Havana since 1980. In a press release, Jacobson’s office said the two-day visit’s agenda will include “technical and logistical arrangements such as embassy operations, staffing and visa processing.”
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According to the release, Jacobson will meet with members of independent civil society, as well as religious and independent business leaders.
Moscow and Havana remained close allies during the 30-year Cold War, until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. After a gap of eight years, during Boris Yeltsin presidency (1991-1999), the two countries resumed bilateral relations and military cooperation.
Then in December 2008, a Russian anti-submarine destroyer and two logistical warships docked in Cuba in a nonmilitary visit, the first of its kind since the Soviet Union’s demise. The arrival was an extension of a tour that included stops in Venezuela and Panama and showed Moscow's desire to flex some muscle in the United States' backyard.