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Russian bank Novikombank opened a branch in Cuba

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Russia's Novikombank said on Thursday it became the first bank in the country to open a representative office in Cuba as part of growing economic ties between the former Cold War allies.

The Russian state bank said in a statement that the central bank Cuba licensed it on June 7. Cuban authorities and the central bank did not comment to Reuters.

– The opening of the Novikom representative office in the Republic of Cuba is not only a new stage for the bank, but also an important step in Russian-Cuban relations – said Elena Georgieva, chairman of the management board, quoted in the release.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine Moscow's already warm relationship with the communist-ruled nation has strengthened into a “strategic partnership” under which a range of possible investment projects in industries such as transportation, energy and sugar processing are being discussed.

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Reuters recalls that a Russian Navy frigate and a nuclear-powered submarine docked in Havana's port last week in what is widely seen as a show of strength by Moscow amid tensions with the West over conflict in Ukraine.

Strengthening ties between Cuba and Russia

Over the past few years, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has visited Moscow four times. Novikombank said it plans to support the trade and investment activities of Russian clients in Cuba. “The governments of both countries are increasing the scope of cooperation in every respect,” the statement said.

Russian tourists have been visiting Cuba in increasing numbers since 2022, and supplies of oil and wheat have provided some relief in the face of an exhausting crisis characterized by shortages of basic goods, inflation and power outages that triggered record migration. It is also one of the few countries that accepts the Russian MIR credit card.

Cuba first opened up to foreign banks in the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Most European and Canadian banks have left in recent years due to the crisis and fears of US sanctions. However, this is unlikely to discourage Novikombank, which is already under sanctions imposed by United States and other countries in connection with war in Ukraine.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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