Formal talks

"We, like many others, see Russia's rebirth as a positive factor," he said.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said the two countries plan to sign agreements that will promote co-operation in trade, economic, financial, investment, cultural and humanitarian issues.

Lavrov also said Russia's interest in Cuba was economic, signalling a change from the past, when the two were partners in communism.

Castro is expected to meet with Dmitry Medvedev, the Russia president, at his country residence just outside Moscow on Thursday.

Formal talks between the two will take place on Friday at the Kremlin.

Last November Medvedev visited Havana, Cuba's capital, on a Latin American tour aimed at restoring relations with the region.

US blockade

Both countries are said to be looking out for changes in the foreign policy of the US, under the leadership of Barack Obama, the country's new president.

The US currently maintains an economic blockade of Cuba.

"Our country has consistently stood for normalising the situation around Cuba, for its fully fledged reintegration into regional and world processes," Lavrov said.

"What is important is that Latin American countries are united in their efforts to overcome Havana's isolation."