Cuba publishes new photos of ageing ex-President Fidel Castro

Castro has not be photographed publicly for five months

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The Independent Online

Cuba has published the first photos of former President Fidel Castro for almost half a year.

Castro had not been pictured in a public engagement since he met with the embattled Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, last summer.

The collection, which was released across Cuban state media last night, shows the 88-year-old former revolutionary seated and in conversation with the President of Cuba's main students' union, the University Students Federation (FEU).

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In a lengthy account which accompanied the photos in state-run Granma newspaper, union leader Randy Perdomo Garcia said he met Mr Castro at his house for three hours on 23 January. The meeting was part of an event celebrating 70 years since the former leader studied at the University of Havana.

Despite stepping down in 2008, an elderly Mr Castro told the student that he is keeping abreast of the news, with the pair pictured discussing the release of three Cuban intelligence agents as part of the an historic thawing in diplomatic relations with the US.

Other topics they explored included international politics, agriculture, astronomy, and Namibia's donation of animals to Cuba's National Zoo.

castro-getty.jpgMr Garcia described the former revolutionary leader as "full of life, conversing intelligently", adding that he is physically active and taking daily exercises.

"I'm about to go but he continues a conversation about new ways of fighting some diseases, including diabetes, with the production of natural foods; about Cuba's relations with Africa, from its contribution to those countries' independence to the end of apartheid and the current contribution of Cuban doctors to the fight against Ebola," Perdomo wrote.

Mr Castro public appearances have become increasingly infrequent since he stepped down as President following a serious illness in 2006.

An unusually lengthy silence following the announcement that Cuba and the US were moving to re-establish full diplomatic relations sparked intense speculation about his health. A few weeks ago Castro sent a letter to former footballer Diego Maradona to quash rumours that he had died.

Additional reporting by Reuters