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Cuban authorities discovered an alleged human trafficking ring aimed at recruiting Cuba’s citizens to fight for Russia in the Ukraine war, CBS News reported.
The country’s foreign ministry confirmed that the government is working to dismantle the trafficking ring operating from Russia that is being used to “incorporate Cuban citizens living there and even some living in Cuba into the forces that participate in military operations in Ukraine.”
Officials also claimed they began criminal proceedings against “those involved in these activities,” but didn’t specify the number of suspects or the charges they face.
At the same time, the ministry also accused Cuba’s unspecified “enemies” of “promoting distorted information that seeks to tarnish the country’s image and present it as an accomplice to these actions that we firmly reject.”
Russia did not comment on the matter.
The government’s announcement comes less than a week after a Miami newspaper published a series of testimonials from two teenagers, who alleged to have been tricked into working together with the Russian army on construction sites in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, another Cuban man told the outlet that he had joined Russia’s forces hoping to legalize his status in the country.
Cuba and Russia have recently boosted ties, with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel formally meeting his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow at the end of last year.
Following its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has heavily depended on mercenary forces, primarily sourced from within its own borders through the Wagner Group. However, Wagner’s late chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, attempted a short-lived mutiny in June.
Last month, Prigozhin and some of his top Wagner leaders died in a plane crash, an incident that was widely perceived as an assassination by the Russian government.