Medvedev in Cuba for trade, energy talks

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev kicked off a three-day visit to Cuba on Thursday during which he will meet President Raul Castro for trade and energy talks.

As part of Cuba's bid to tap undersea oil wealth, Russia's Zarubezhneft is drilling the communist island's deepest offshore well yet with a Norwegian-owned Songa Mercur rig.

The oil exploration is crucial for Cuba, which relies heavily on close ally Venezuela and its leftist President Hugo Chavez for cut-rate supplies.

The official Cubadebate website said Medvedev would discuss trade diversification as well as joint energy and pharmaceutical projects with Cuban authorities.

Moscow was Cuba's main ally and source of economic support for three decades until the collapse of the Soviet Union, but now ranks only ninth as a trading partner, with just $224 million in trade in 2011.