| GEO World|
| Russian warships bound for Cuba in new show of strength|
| Updated at: 1829 PST, Monday, December 15, 2008|
MOSCOW: Russia said on Monday it was sending a group of warships to Soviet-era ally Cuba in its latest defiant naval move around US waters, part of a drive to revive old Cold War ties with Latin America.
The warships will visit Havana on December 19-23, the navy said, continuing a tour that has already taken in US foes Venezuela and Nicaragua and seen the ships pass through the Panama Canal for the first time since World War II.
"This will be the first visit to Cuba by Russian warships since the Soviet era," the Russian naval headquarters said in a statement.
The destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and two other ships already held exercises with Venezuela's navy in the Caribbean Sea last month.
The naval manoeuvres close to US waters are seen as a riposte to Washington's own moves in Russia's Soviet-era sphere of influence, including in the Black Sea.
US officials have said they see no military threat from Russia's naval manoeuvres but continue to keep a close eye on the situation.
The naval visit to Cuba, scene of a dramatic 1962 stand-off between Moscow and Washington over nuclear missiles, comes as tensions over US missile defence plans in eastern Europe have prompted talk of a renewed Cold War among some analysts.
Last month Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made a tour of Latin America where he visited Cuba and Venezuela and met former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, part of efforts to revive what he called "privileged relations" from Soviet times.
Last week he also received Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner, another Latin American critic of the United States.
Nicaragua's leftist President Daniel Ortega is to visit Moscow on Thursday, after he risked Washington's wrath this summer by following Russia in recognizing two Moscow-backed rebel regions of Georgia as independent.
The Russian moves in Central and Latin America follow heightened tensions over Russia's military onslaught in Georgia, a close US ally.
Russia strongly objected to US naval deployments off Georgia's Black Sea coast, accusing the United States of covertly rearming Georgia, a charge Washington denied.
On Monday the Russian navy avoided direct reference to the United States, saying that visits to Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela signified "long-term prospects for developing cooperation among these countries' navies in the interest of building stability and trust on the world's oceans."
During the Cuba visit, residents will be welcomed aboard the Russian ships and Russian officers will lay flowers at a memorial to Cuban campaigner for independence and critic of US expansionism Jose Marti, the navy said.