According to the Russian diplomat, Moscow and Havana are discussing joint projects to improve trade between the two countries, particularly in the production of biopharmaceuticals.
"The Russian-Cuban plans of increasing the trade turnover are not dependent on the Western sanctions policy with respect to our country," Alexander Stepunin explained.
"The trade turnover between Cuba and Russia, its structure and volume, have not undergone any significant changes with the introduction of Western sanctions against Russia," Stepunin said, adding that quantitative and qualitative trade indicators remain more or less the same.
In contrast, Cuba’s relations with the West have improved after US President Barack Obama had announced in December 2014 his administration’s intention to normalize relations with Havana.
According to the Russian Embassy in Cuba, the political situation of the past year and a half has not significantly affected the flow of tourists between Russia and Cuba, although it has recently declined slightly.
"This [the drop] is most likely related to the internal situation in Russia, the fall of the ruble and its influence on the population’s income. But if we look at this from the perspective of western sanctions against Russia, this problem does not have a significant influence on the Russian-Cuban tourist flow," Stepunin said.
Cooperation between Cuba and Russia will stay strong regardless of the normalization of relations between Washington and Havana, Alexander Stepunin said.
"This period, since December 17 and up until now, showed that despite a Cuba-US thaw our relations were not damaged. They are developing, they are on the rise, they are enhancing."
Russia Urges US to End Economic Embargo Against Cuba
Russia calls for an end to the US trade embargo against Cuba as it hampers a full restoration of relations between the two countries, the press attaché of the Russian Embassy in Cuba told Sputnik.
"We have been calling both in the framework of the United Nations and international gatherings for the Cuba economic blockade to be lifted by the United States, which is still in place even though a normalization of diplomatic relations has been announced," Alexander Stepunin said.
"For Cuba, a thaw [in relations] with the United States is very important," he said.
The reestablishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba is a victory for the island nation, the diplomat said.
"We consider the rapprochement of America and Cuba as Cuba’s victory because it [Cuba] had fought for that for a long time, [fought] for a fair treatment on the part of the United States. Naturally, it is very important [for Cuba] as they are close neighbors," Stepunin said.
"The Cubans are ready to further normalize relations with the United States, but only on conditions of preserving its national sovereignty, so they [the Cubans] are not ready to give up their rights," Alexander Stepunin said.
The diplomat added that Havana would not agree to concessions that could undermine its national interests.
In late January 2015, Cuban President Raul Castro called on the United States to return the Guantanamo Bay region to Cuba.
"They understand that this issue is complicated enough to be discussed, but they will never give up on it," the press attaché stated, adding that Cuba consistently voices their position regarding the return of the Guantanamo Bay region at every international event. "Unless this issue is settled, development of relations with the United States seems problematic," Stepunin explained.
On Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Cuba to participate in a flag-raising ceremony at the US embassy in Havana. Kerry’s arrival will mark the first official visit made by a US secretary of state to Cuba in 60 years.