Ambassador: Cubans free to join Russian military in Ukraine

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Cuba’s ambassador to Russia Julio Antonio Garmendia Peña said that his government will not prevent Cuban citizens from enlisting in the Russian military and fighting in Ukraine.

“We have nothing against Cubans who just want to sign a contract and legally take part in this operation with the Russian army,” Peña told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti on Sept. 14. “But we oppose illegality and these operations that have nothing to do with the legal area.”

Peña’s statement follows a Sept. 4 report that Cuban authorities uncovered a human trafficking ring aimed at recruiting Cubans for Russia’s war on Ukraine.

In response, the Cuban Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Cuba “has a firm and clear historical position against mercenarism” and that “Cuba is not a part of the war in Ukraine.”

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Cuba’s Interior Ministry reportedly arrested 17 individuals last week in an effort to dismantle the trafficking ring.

“We are talking about bad people who, on the basis of such an important issue as a military operation, as relations between our countries, want to earn money, want to put money in their pocket and engage in illegal activities,” Ambassador Peña said.

He did not clarify whether or not Russian recruitment of Cuban citizens is still considered “mercenarism,” a crime under Cuban law.

Russia has moved to increase the size of its forces in Ukraine after sustaining an estimated 300,000 casualties over 18 months of full-scale war.

On Sept. 3, the U.K.’s Defense Ministry reported that Russia was trying to recruit foreigners to avoid announcing a new mobilization campaign before the 2024 presidential elections.

Read also: Deadly drone arms race intensifies as Ukraine, Russia embrace the future of war

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