Russian FSB human trafficking Cubans to fight Putin’s war in Ukraine

Cuba has uncovered a human trafficking ring that has coerced Cuban citizens to fight for Russia in the war in Ukraine, its foreign ministry said, adding that authorities were working to “neutralize and dismantle” the network.

The ministry’s statement on Monday gave few details but noted the trafficking ring was operating both in the Caribbean island nation and within Russia.

“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 living there, and even some from Cuba, into the military forces participating in war operations in Ukraine,” the statement said.

“Cuba has a firm and clear historical position against mercenarism and plays an active role in the United Nations in repudiation of this practice,” the ministry added, according to an unofficial translation.

“Cuba is not part of the war 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 of mercenarism so that Cuban citizens use weapons against any country.”

The Russian government has not commented on the allegations.

In late May, a Russian newspaper in Ryazan city reported that several Cuban citizens had signed contracts with Russia’s armed forces and had been shipped to Ukraine in return for Russian citizenship.

It was not immediately clear if the Cuban foreign ministry statement was associated with the Ryazan report.

Russia last year announced a plan to boost the size of its armed forces by more than 30 percent to 1.5 million combat personnel, a lofty goal made harder by Russia’s 300,000 casualties in the 18-month war in Ukraine.

“We can’t sleep (because) at any moment they can come back and do something to us,” said another young man, who claimed to have been beaten.

Another Cuban man told the media outlet that he had signed up with Moscow’s armed forces hoping to legalize his status in Russia.

Moscow and Havana have boosted ties recently, with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel meeting his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow at the end of last year.

In June, Cuban Defense Minister Alvaro Lopez Miera was received by his counterpart Sergei Shugu.

Ukraine said on Monday it had made some gains against Russian forces in the south and east as it pushes ahead with a highly scrutinized counteroffensive.

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