Putin unveils Fidel Castro monument in Moscow

STORY: Castro, who took power in 1959, is not commemorated by statues in his homeland because, his brother Raul said after his death in 2016, he wanted to avoid a personality cult.

But Putin evoked his memory as he told Diaz-Canel the two countries needed to build on the "solid foundation of friendship" established between Castro and Soviet leaders.

Russia, hit by Western sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine, is looking to strengthen political and economic ties with other countries opposed to what it calls U.S. hegemony. Cuba has been under a U.S. economic embargo since 1962 after the Communist revolution led by Castro.

Under Castro, Cuba was a close ally of Moscow and found itself at the center of one of the gravest crises of the Cold War when, in 1962, the United States detected the construction of Soviet launch sites on the Caribbean island for firing ballistic missiles capable of hitting U.S. cities.

The resulting standoff, known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, brought the United States and the Soviet Union close to the brink of nuclear war.