Russian passports for Cuban soldiers

Hundreds of Cubans have been hired by the Russian military to fight in its war against Ukraine, a BBC report has claimed.

In September and October 2023, passport details belonging to over 200 Cubans who allegedly joined the Russian army were leaked by InformNapalm. These were obtained by hacking the emails of a Russian military recruitment officer in Tula, south of Moscow.

A Facebook search has shown that 31 of the names mentioned in the Ukrainian leak match accounts whose owners appear to be in Russia or linked to the Russian army. 

Many of those Facebook users started posting Russia-related content in the second half of 2023, indicating when they might have arrived in the country.

Documents leaked online and media reports suggest Cuban men are offered monthly payments in the region of $2,000 per month – a significant sum for economically-stricken Cuba, where the average monthly salary is under $25. 

Some are also driven by the higher chances of getting a permanent residency or citizenship in Russia – a Russian passport allows visa-free travel to 117 destinations, while Cuban passport holders are limited to 61.

Bringing Cubans into Russia is relatively straightforward. The two countries have been allies since the Cold War, thus a reciprocal visa-free policy is in place and direct flights are readily available.

Recruiting foreigners to replace some of the losses also helps the Kremlin avoid the risks posed by trying to mobilize Russians by force. When Russia declared a partial mobilization in 2022, hundreds of thousands of men left the country. Foreign recruits from Nepal, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Somalia, as well as additional central Asian and African countries, have served as primary targets for recruitment.

Last September, Cuban authorities said they had arrested 17 people in connection to the subject. 

Later, Cuba’s ambassador to Russia, Julio Antonio Garmendía Peña, said in a statement Havana had nothing against people who wanted to „simply sign a contract and legally take part in this operation alongside the Russian army”. 

Soon after, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla clarified Havana was against „the participation of Cuban citizens in conflicts of any sort”.

In September 2023, Cuba uncovered a human trafficking ring aimed at recruiting people to fight for Russia, a violation that Cuba’s Foreign Affairs Ministry „firmly rejects.”

Surprise, surprise: another mandate for Putin

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