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Cuba claimed to be working to “neutralize and dismantle” a Russia-sponsored human trafficking network within the Caribbean islands.
The Foreign Ministry allege Cuban citizens living in Russia, as well as some residents still on the island, had been coerced into joining the Russian Army in the fight in Ukraine.
In a statement, the Ministry claimed the network was active across the island – which has long had an established association with Russia as large numbers of Cubans sought to escape economic stagnation by heading off to Moscow.
The statement read: “The Ministry of the Interior…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 Ministry insisted that “Cuba is not part of the war in Ukraine,” and traffickers would be swiftly prosecuted.
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The statement added: “Cuba is acting and will act energetically against anyone… who participates in any form of human trafficking for the purpose of recruitment of Cuban citizens as mercenaries to use arms against any country.”
They said attempts to coerce Cuban citizens into fighting in Ukraine had already been prosecuted.
They added: “Attempts of this nature have been neutralized and criminal proceedings have been initiated against people involved in these activities.”
Russian paper Ryazan Gazette reported earlier this year that Moscow had offered Cubans living in Russia citizenship in exchange for their military service.
Cuba and Russia were linked earlier this year after La Havana and Moscow discussed the strengthening joint “technical military” projects.
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But Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel has repeatedly denied any involvement of his country in the war in Ukraine.
The recruitment of foreign nationals appears to be in line with Vladimir Putin’s attempts to increase the numbers of his military personnel.
The Russian Duma passed a new law in July that raised the maximum age for military conscription to 30.
Summoned individuals will also be banned from leaving Russia from the day they receive their summons onwards.
Putin passed an additional law in August that increased fines for failures to appear at the military enlistment center to 30,000 rubles.
Russian officials issued a rare statement last September claiming 5,937 soldiers had died since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
But independent Russian media outlets Meduza and Mediazona put the estimate at a much higher 47,000 dead.
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