The Cuban government announced this Monday the dismantling of a Russian-based human trafficking network that recruited Cubans — both on the island and in that country — to participate as soldiers in the war in Ukraine.
A statement from the island’s Foreign Ministry reported that the Ministry of the Interior “detected and 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 in Cuba.”
“Cuba is not part of the armed conflict in Ukraine,” stressed the Foreign Ministry, which ensures that Cuba “is acting and will act energetically” against whoever “participates in any form of trafficking in persons for recruitment or mercenary purposes so that Cuban citizens use weapons against any country.”
In this sense, it refers that the authorities of the island “have neutralized attempts of this nature and criminal proceedings have been initiated against people involved in these activities.” The statement does not specify which people or organizations are behind this network.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez stressed that “the force of the law is being acted against these claims,” in a message on his Twitter account.
#Cuba enfrenta operaciones de trata de personas con fines de reclutamiento militar. Se actúa con la fuerza de la ley contra esas pretensiones.
— Bruno Rodríguez P (@BrunoRguezP) September 5, 2023
He also maintains that Cuba has a “firm and clear historical position against the use of mercenaries” and plays “an active role in the United Nations in repudiation of this practice,” while mentioning that it has been the author of several of the initiatives approved in that forum.
He also “categorically” rejects and attributes to “the enemies of Cuba” the “distorted” information that “seeks to tarnish the image of the country and present it as an accomplice to these actions.”
In exchange for money and citizenship
Last May a local Russian newspaper published the details of how foreigners, including Cubans, were being recruited to join the Russian troops.
Since 2022 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order making it easier for foreigners to enlist in the Russian army by contract. Previously the legislation was stricter and one had to serve no less than five years to obtain citizenship.
In addition to the monetary component, many Cubans who are in Russia, without other possibilities of regularization, are attracted by the promise that after only one year of service they will be able to avail themselves of Russian citizenship, both they and their direct family members.