Russia expands a key aircraft market in Cuba

HAVANA Mon Aug 6, 2007 10:01pm BST

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HAVANA Aug 6 (Reuters) - Russia has delivered the first of three Tupolev medium-haul jet planes to Cuba, expanding one of its main export markets for commercial aircraft, the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma reported on Monday.

The cargo version of the TU-204 arrived in Havana on Sunday and two passenger jets will be delivered before the end of the year as Cuba upgrades its aging Soviet-era fleet, the paper said.

Last year, Cuba received three Ilyushin IL-96-300s long-haul passenger jets used on routes to Europe and Latin America by Cuban carrier Cubana de Aviacion.

A Russian diplomat said the sales to Cuba are one of the most important export contracts for Russia's commercial aircraft industry since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The deal was financed by Ilyushin Finance Co.

Cuba last year agreed to buy $100 million a year in civilian aircraft from Russia over the next seven years, including short-haul regional Antonov AN-148 planes.

Under U.S. sanctions dating from shortly after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, Cuba's communist government is barred from purchasing Boeing (BA.N) aircraft. It is also barred from buying European Airbus EAD.PA planes because more than 10 percent of their components are U.S. made.

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