Cuban President Raul Castro has begun a visit to Moscow that was set to include a World War II victory parade and meetings with Russia's leadership at a time of thawing ties between Havana and Washington.
Castro's presence in Moscow on May 6 makes him one of a dwindling list of dignitaries and foreign leaders set to attend Russia’s Red Square parade on May 9 to mark 70 years since the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
Western diplomats have made plans to visit Moscow, but few European leaders are staying for the parade.
Even Russia's closest allies from the former Soviet Union, including Belarus, have opted to stay away.
Castro is the first foreign leader to arrive ahead of celebrations that will showcase Russia's newest military weaponry.
Castro was expected to meet Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on May 6 after his arrival late on May 5.
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he plans to take part in Moscow’s May 9 celebrations.