17 people arrested in Cuba linked to the mercenary recruitment network for Russia

17 people arrested in Cuba linked to the mercenary recruitment network for Russia

HAVANA, Sept. 8th.  A total of 17 people have been detained in Cuba in relation to the recent dismantling of a network that recruited mercenaries to fight for Russia in the invasion of Ukraine, according to official media reported this Thursday. Three of these people “belonged to the recruitment plot within the island,” while the other 14 have confessed “to having joined the operation by individual and voluntary decision, in exchange for residence in the Eurasian country and a substantial monetary remuneration.”

The Cuban authorities assured, based on confessions of those arrested and the intervention of communications, that the network was directed “from abroad” and that the organizers were looking for “individuals with criminal records, from dysfunctional families.”

Although at the moment the alleged crimes for which the detainees are being investigated have not been revealed, the official digital media Cubadebate stressed that the new penal code establishes “severe sanctions for this type of crime” that fits between trafficking, human trafficking and mercenarism.

This website added that the chief prosecutor of the Supervision Department of the Directorate of Criminal Proceedings of the Attorney General’s Office of Cuba, José Luis Reyes Blanco, explained that “in the investigations, the attributable crime will be determined for each case, in correspondence with the actions and the will of those involved.”

The publication added that “currently investigations into these events harmful to national security, foreign to the values of the Cuban people, continue.” The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced this Monday the dismantling of a human trafficking network based in Russia that recruited Cubans – both on the island and in that Eurasian country – to fight as mercenaries in the war in Ukraine.

The statement was released after several media outlets outside the island, including some based in Miami (the main base of Cuban exile), reported the presence of Cuban mercenaries fighting with Russian troops in the invasion of Ukraine. Some pointed to the alleged acquiescence or collaboration of the Cuban authorities in the recruitment.

The Foreign Ministry assured that the Ministry of the Interior “detected and is working on the neutralization and dismantling of a human trafficking network that operates from Russia to incorporate Cuban citizens residing there, and even some from Cuba.”

Foreign Affairs stressed, already at a political level, that “Cuba is not part of the war conflict in Ukraine,” and that Cuba “is acting and will act vigorously” against anyone “participating in any form of human trafficking for the purposes of recruitment or mercenaries.” so that Cuban citizens can use weapons against any country.”

The Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, stressed the social network ”. He also “categorically” rejected any type of connivance of the Cuban State and attributed to “the enemies of Cuba” “distorted” information that “seek to tarnish the image of the country and present it as an accomplice in these actions.”

The Cuban Government and the official media have largely used Moscow’s rhetoric when referring to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a traditional political ally and important commercial partner of the island.

At the United Nations, Cuba has voted against resolutions sponsored by Ukraine or its allies but has also opted on several occasions to abstain rather than explicitly support the Kremlin’s positions.