MOSCOW (AFP) - President Vladimir Putin will next week begin a major Latin America tour that will take him to Cuba, Argentina and Brazil as he seeks to counter Russia's growing international isolation over the Ukraine crisis.
Mr Putin will begin his six-day tour with the July 11 visit to Cuba, the Kremlin said on Friday, where he will meet President Raul Castro and the 87-year-old father of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro.
The visit to the Communist-run island will come as tensions remain high between Russia and the West over the Ukraine crisis. Havana has sided with its old ally Russia in the conflict.
Mr Putin and his Cuban hosts are expected to discuss cooperation in energy, transport, aviation, space and health, the Kremlin said.
He will then travel to Argentina for trade and energy talks with President Cristina Kirchner, before moving on to a summit of the BRICS group of developing countries in Brazil.
The highlight of the trip's final leg will be a handover ceremony at the end of the World Cup finals, where Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will pass on responsibility for the tournament to Mr Putin.
Russia will host the football extravaganza in 2018 and has pledged to spend billions of dollars on stadiums and infrastructure for the tournament.