Putin begins Latin American tour amid Ukraine crisis

Russian President Putin speaks during a meeting of the Presidential Council on Inter-Ethnic Relations in the KremlinBy Daniel Trotta and Alexei Anishchuk HAVANA (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin begins a six-day tour of Latin America on Friday, seeking greater influence in the backyard of the United States while under pressure from the West to help restrain pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Putin’s first stop is Cuba, the Cold War ally of the former Soviet Union situated only 90 miles (145 km) from the United States. He will also visit Argentina and Brazil for bilateral talks. While in Brazil, Putin will participate in a summit of emerging market nations that include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) on Tuesday and Wednesday.