Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in Cuba, his first stop on a six-day tour of Latin America. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Russian President Vladimir Putin begins a six-day tour of Latin America on Friday (July 11), seeking greater influence in the backyard of the United States while under pressure from the West to help restrain pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Putin's first stop is Cuba, the Cold War ally of the former Soviet Union situated only 90 miles (145 km) from the United States. He will also visit Argentina and Brazil for bilateral talks. While in Brazil, Putin will participate in a summit of emerging market nations that include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) on Tuesday and Wednesday. Putin was scheduled to meet former President Fidel Castro and his brother and current President, Raul Castro, both long-time foes of the United States. He travels as Western allies pressure him to urge Ukrainian rebels to find a negotiated solution. When the Ukraine crisis erupted in February, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia was negotiating with eight countries, including Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, to build military installations such as bases or long-range refueling stations for Russian navy vessels or strategic bombers. Military issues are absent from Putin's official agenda in Cuba, and such a provocation would represent a departure for Raul Castro, who has overseen more pragmatic relations with Washington, despite half a century of hostilities.