Authorities in Cuba have uncovered a human trafficking network that recruited Cubans living in Russia to fight for the Russian military in Ukraine, as per a statement published on the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s website.
According to the ministry, the network was based in Russia, with its goal being “to incorporate Cuban citizens living [in Russia] and even some living in Cuba, into the [Russian] military forces that participate in military operations in Ukraine.” The network's attempts were “neutralized” and criminal proceedings have been initiated against those involved, said the Foreign Ministry.
“Cuba’s enemies are promoting distorted information that seeks to tarnish the country’s image and present it as an accomplice to these actions that we firmly reject,” the ministry added.
The statement also stressed that Cuba is not involved in the war in Ukraine, has a firm and clear historical position against mercenarism and plays an active role in the UN, having authored several initiatives against the practice.
In late May, an article in the Russian newspaper Ryazanskie Vedomosti reported that a number of Cuban nationals had entered into agreements with the Russian Armed Forces to fight in Ukraine. The article suggested that some of these individuals had expressed an interest in obtaining Russian citizenship at a later date:
“Today, several citizens of the Republic of Cuba began military service in the Russian army under contract. The Cubans have said they want to help our country execute tasks in the special military operation zone, and some of them would like to become citizens of Russia in the future.”
In Russia, the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) previously actively sought mercenaries to take part in the invasion of Ukraine. In the beginning of August, the independent investigative news outlet Important Stories (IStories) uncovered evidence suggesting that the PMC was still actively recruiting mercenaries, despite founder Yevgeny Prigozhin's statements claiming a halt in recruitment. An IStories correspondent posed as a “volunteer,” gaining access to a private chat where mercenaries communicate and attempted to enroll in the PMC through one of the Wagner Group’s organizations in Novosibirsk. According to the reporter’s findings, the primary destination for deploying trained Wagner fighters appeared to be Africa, and not Ukraine.
Wagner PMC co-founders Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin were both killed as a result of a plane crash in Russia’s Tver Region in late August.
The Insider’s editor-in-chief Roman Dobrokhotov and editor Michael Weiss discussed the consequences of the Wagner leader’s death for Vladimir Putin’s regime with Bellingcat investigator Christo Grozev in the first edition of The Insider Talks on August 28.