Cuba Investigates Alleged Recruitment of its Citizens to Fight for Russia
Cuban authorities have discovered human trafficking activities aimed at recruiting Cubans as mercenaries to fight for Russia in Ukraine, according to a statement by the country's Foreign Ministry (MinRex) on Monday.
"The Ministry of the Interior has detected and is working to neutralize and dismantle a human trafficking network that operates from Russia to incorporate Cuban citizens living there and even some living in Cuba into the military forces participating in military operations in Ukraine," the statement read.
MinRex stated that such attempts have been thwarted, and criminal proceedings have been initiated against individuals involved.
Cuba's authorities, while categorically rejecting any involvement in the war in Ukraine, emphasized that false information is being spread by the country's enemies to tarnish its image and portray it as an accomplice in such activities.
"Cuba has a firm and clear historical position against mercenarism, and it plays an active role in the United Nations in rejecting the aforementioned practice, being the author of several of the initiatives approved in that forum," the statement read.
MinRex did not provide further details about the case but underscored that "Cuba is not a participant in the war in Ukraine."
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez's office did not issue a direct response but retweeted the MinRex statement, emphasizing that Cuba "is acting and will act energetically against whoever, from the national territory, participates in any form of human trafficking for the purpose of recruitment or mercenarism."
Last week, América TeVé, a Spanish-language television station in Miami, broadcast photographs and statements demonstrating that Cubans were recruited for the war in Ukraine and flown to Russia as tourists on Aeroflot Airlines via Varadero airport, Cuba's second-largest.
The television broadcast included messages described as testimony from two youngsters who claimed they had been deceived into working with the Russian army on construction projects in Ukraine and were pleading for rescue.
Following this news from Cuba, the Russian independent news outlet The Moscow Times conducted its own investigation, reporting that "Russia-based recruiters are targeting Cuban nationals online for the war in Ukraine, promising them lucrative military contracts, help with relocating to Russia, and even citizenship for them and their families."
The outlet quoted a senior-ranking serviceman as saying that "entire international battalions are fighting in Ukraine," including Cuban and Serbian nationals.
"Russian is poorly spoken, and not by everyone. It is unclear how to work with them, and they are not just any PMCs [Private Military Company fighters]; they are all employed by the Ministry of Defense," the officer, who insisted on anonymity, told The Moscow Times.
According to the news outlet, summons for military duty are usually posted in a Facebook group called "Cubanos en Moscú" [Cubans in Moscow] by a woman named Elena Shuvalova.
Reportedly, she tries to persuade potential soldiers by promising them one-year contracts with the Russian army and a monthly income of 204,000 Russian rubles (US$2,085).
Speaking to The Moscow Times, Shuvalova confirmed that she may assist foreigners in Russia, especially unauthorized immigrants, in signing a contract with the Russian military.
"If you don't have a passport but you have a photo, then that's already good," she said.