Young Cubans are being recruited (and tricked) by Putin into going to the front in Ukraine

Young Cubans are being recruited (and tricked) by Putin into going to the front in Ukraine

Buenos AiresFor many months, many international media have reported on the recruitment of young Cubans from Russia to go to the front in Ukraine to fight. With the promise of a Russian passport and a monthly salary of around 2,000 euros, some Cuban men made the trip in the face of the Caribbean nation’s economic emergency. However, some have reported being scammed and illegally recruited as mercenaries through construction job offers on social media. The Cuban Foreign Ministry has distanced itself from this matter“Cuba is not part of the war conflict in Ukraine. It acts and will act forcefully against anyone, from the national territory, who is in any way involved in human trafficking for the purposes of recruitment or Earning Cuban citizens may use weapons against any country.”

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Yadil (fictitious name) is 36 years old and from Havana, where he worked as a construction worker. Last June, his cousin told him that, through the name Tanya (also a fictitious name), he had received information about a “good job” in Russia: in construction, the same thing, but it paid 240,000 rubles, about 2,000 euros, in salary. It is unthinkable for anyone now on the island, which is going through a serious economic crisis and shortages. With the aim of improving his family’s quality of life, Yadil did not think much about it and sent his papers to the phone number mentioned. A short time later, he received mail containing plane tickets for the next day: a flight from Varadero to Moscow, which he shared with about forty young people like him. Once they arrived at their destination, Tania, along with two of her aides, greeted them and asked them to take a minibus to a hotel, where more Cubans continued to arrive for three weeks, Yadel explains in a video chat with the newspaper. Ara. In those days, they were taking Russian language lessons until they were asked to sign an employment contract: the document was more than 20 pages long and written in Russian, so they did not understand anything.

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“Just before signing the contract – he explains – Tanya told us that the war would go away.” In the face of confusion, he explained to them that they would not go to the first line of the front but to the third line, “which later turned out to be a lie,” explains Yadiel. In addition, the contract included a monthly bonus of 200 thousand rubles, which they did not receive in full because Tanya and her colleagues kept part of it. “Now, with human trafficking, they must be millionaires,” he says, shaking his head. At the time, Yadell explains, he felt betrayed and trapped: “I had no choice but to sign: I was in a military hotel and I don’t even know where, I had no money, no contacts, no friends, and there were cameras.” Everywhere and everywhere. Where do you want him to go?” he asked. He argued with his cousin, who was in the same situation. “We left Cuba deceived – he regrets – and there was no other choice but to move on.” They were transferred to a military unit in Ukraine, where they received training, And from there to the front.

He is now in Moscow, at a friend’s house. Three months ago, the blast wave caused by a bomb left him practically unable to walk. He is still recovering and is in severe pain and his kidneys are not working well. He will never have to fight again: “The contracts are for one year, so when I recover, they will give me a Russian passport and a house. I know some Cubans who have already achieved that,” he says. When asked if he wanted to return to Cuba, he said yes, but he did not want to because he feared he would be accused of being a mercenary and go to prison. He intends to move his family to Russia: “I miss them.” He hid from them for weeks that he was at the front until it appeared on Cuban television. “War is the ugliest thing you can imagine,” he says, his legs shaking.

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Cuba and Russia are sister countries

In a flawless military parade, nine thousand soldiers celebrated Victory Day last Thursday in Moscow’s Red Square. May 9 marks the USSR’s victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, which ended World War II. In a solemn speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin referred to the war with Ukraine: “Russia will do everything in its power to avoid global confrontation, but we will not allow anyone to threaten us.” Two days ago, he had invested in his fifth term. Among the guests at the show was his Cuban counterpart Miguel Díaz-Canel. In a meeting between the two leaders, the Cuban president wished “success in Russia” and spoke out against “the geopolitical manipulation of the United States government and NATO threats.”

Cuba and Russia maintained friendly diplomatic relations for decades: after the victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and the economic blockade imposed by the United States on the island in 1962, Cuba became a major ally of the Soviet Union, whose economic policy increased its influence. Dependency during the Cold War. From the fall of the Berlin Wall until today, Cuba and Russia have maintained close relations. In 2000, new President Putin visited the island, where he and Fidel Castro called for an end to the economic blockade. Both countries maintain a rhetoric against US imperialism in collusion with the European Union.

From day to day at the front, Yadel highlights the “good treatment and camaraderie” of Russian soldiers. He is convinced that Russia is fighting “for the freedom of Ukraine,” and that illegal human trafficking networks operate behind the backs of the Russian and Cuban governments, and he does not hold them responsible for what happened to him and his fellow people: “We were here just looking for a way to improve our standard of living through work, Instead of throwing ourselves into the sea in a raft.”

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