The foreign ministry of the Republic of Cuba has said that it has uncovered a human trafficking ring aimed at recruiting Cubans to fight for Russia in its ongoing war in Ukraine.
The ministry said that Cubans living in Russia and “even some in Cuba” had been “incorporated into the military forces taking part in the war in Ukraine”, BBC reports.
It could be noted that Cuba is a close ally of Russia but the country’s foreign ministry reportedly stressed in its statement that “it does not form part of the conflict in Ukraine”.
However, there has not yet been a response from Russia, and the Cuban foreign ministry did not specify who was behind the trafficking operation.
The BBC reports that in August, Russian President, Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military to increase its number of soldiers after its combat forces suffered heavy losses in Ukraine.
A Russian newspaper, Ryazan Gazette, has since reported that Cubans living in Russia had joined Russian combat forces fighting in Ukraine in exchange for a promise to receive Russian citizenship.
There have also been videos claiming to show Serbian volunteers training to fight alongside Russian troops in Ukraine.
While it is not clear if the Cuban foreign ministry statement is linked to the reports in the Ryazan Gazette, it states that “Cuba has a firm and clear historical position against the use of mercenaries”.
The statement added, “We will act decisively against those who… engage in human trafficking with the aim of recruiting Cuban citizens to bear arms in any country.”
Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, was said to have published the statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, adding that Cuba was using “the force of the law” to counter attempts to recruit its citizens.
The statement strikes a rare dissonant note in recent Cuban-Russian relations, which has seen the two countries forging tighter trade ties.
Just over two months ago, the defence ministers of Cuba and Russia held talks in Moscow, and the Russian foreign minister travelled to the Communist-run island in April as part of a tour of Russia’s Latin American allies.
Cuba has been a close ally of Russia since the Cuban Revolution, which saw Fidel Castro seize power in 1959.