MOSCOW (Reuters) - Uzbek Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev, widely seen as a successor to late President Islam Karimov, told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday that Uzbekistan is keen to maintain and develop strategic relations with Moscow.

"Your today's visit tells a lot and we are very grateful," Russia's Rossiya-24 channel showed Mirziyoyev telling visiting Putin during their meeting in the ancient Uzbek city of Samarkand.

"Our external political relations with the Russian Federation are those of strategic partnership, and we will continue to develop that bridge which you had been building together with Islam Abduganiyevich (Karimov) for so many years in order not to break it, but to further solidify it."

Karimov, 78, died last week after suffering a stroke. He had ruled Central Asia's most populous nation for 27 years.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Maria Kiselyova)