Russian trafficking ring recruiting in Cuba as Putin desperate for new troops

Cuba is said to have uncovered a human trafficking ring operating from Russia with the aim to recruit men to fight as mercenaries against Ukraine.

The country’s foreign ministry said in a statement this operation had the goal of attracting both Cubans living in Russia and even some based in their homeland.

While Cuba has historically been aligned with the Soviet Union and has remained close to Russia following the end of the Cold War, it said to have remained neutral following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Nevertheless, it previously accused Western nations of provoking the conflict, with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel pledging “unconditional support” in Russia’s “clash with the West”.

Moreover, Cuba is firmly against mercenarism, the statement added, a position it upholds also at the United Nations.

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The statement, shared by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parilla on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, explained the plot – which it’s not clear whether it was linked with the Russian Government – had been detected by the Ministry of the Interior.

The ministry is now “working on the neutralization and dismantling” of the network “that operates from Russia to incorporate Cuban citizens living there, and even some from Cuba, into the military forces participating in war operations in Ukraine”.

It also read: “Attempts of this nature have been neutralised and criminal proceedings have been initiated against people involved in these activities”.

Showing unusual friction in the relationship between La Havana and Moscow, the message added that “Cuba’s enemies” are promoting “distorted information that seeks to tarnish the country’s image and present it as complicit in these actions, which we categorically reject”.

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Speaking about the ongoing conflict initiated by Russia in February last year, the statement read: “Cuba is not part of the war conflict in Ukraine.

“It is acting and will act vigorously against whoever, from the national territory, participates in any form of human trafficking for the purposes of recruitment or mercenarism so that Cuban citizens use weapons against any country.”

The ministry didn’t share whether any Cuban had joined the war as part of the trafficking ring.

Last May, Russian regional newspaper Ryazan Gazette claimed “several Cuban citizens” had joined Russian forces fighting in Ukraine.

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This report comes as the Kremlin continues to seek fresh troops to send to Ukraine.

In August last year, Putin signed a decree set to increase the number of combat personnel in the armed forces by about 10 percent.

In July, Russia also raised the maximum age of conscription from 27 to 30 in a bid to make more men liable for a year of compulsory military service.

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