A group of at least 14 Cuban citizens reportedly signed contracts to enlist in Russia’s armed forces and fight in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the American Radio Televisión Martí reported on Thursday, claiming Russia offered the Cubans a fast track towards Russian citizenship in exchange.
Radio Martí reported that the Cuban citizens were photographed during the recruitment process in the Russian region of Ryazan. Local media outlets reportedly confirmed the nationality of the Cuban conscripts. The Ryazan Gazette, a Russian outlet, reportedly claimed that the group of Cubans “want to help” Russia “perform tasks in the area of the special military operation, and some of them would like to become Russian citizens in the future.”
“Special operation” is the Russian government’s term for the full-scale invasion of Ukraine launched in February 2022 meant to oust democratically elected President Volodymyr Zelensky. Russia has maintained a separate illegitimate presence in Ukraine since its colonization of Crimea in 2014.
Russian dictator Vladimir Putin signed a decree this month that creates a fast track toward Russian citizenship for foreigners who pledge to join the country’s armed forces for a period of at least one year and aid Russia in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
“They signed up, they are receiving money because they are contractors,” historian Álvaro Alba told Radio Martí. “They receive a portion from the army, another portion is given to them by the local authorities who also have to fulfill a plan and they don’t care if they are Indians, Cubans, Mozambicans or Laotians.”
“They sign up and the short-term benefits are for their families there in Russia, this money they are going to be given and, also, with the possibility that in a few months they will receive Russian nationality,” he added.
The online Cuban news outlet Cubanos por el Mundo reported Wednesday that its reporters reached out to a recruiter in Moscow, who confirmed that a group of Cuban citizens had been conscripted into the Russian armed forces.
The source explained to the outlet that any prospective Cuban conscript only needs a valid Cuban passport to be eligible to join the Russian army and, although the Russian government does not cover their travel expenses, it is accepting “those who are here with or without papers” and whether they speak Russian or not.
Russia is one of the few countries in the world where Cuban citizens do not need to obtain a visitor’s visa to enter the country.
According to the source cited, upon going through the one-hour-long recruitment process and signing the corresponding paperwork, each Cuban citizen will receive a salary of 20,400 Russian rubles (roughly $255) and will be able to obtain Russian nationality in an expedited manner after a year of military service, an offer also extended to the immediate family of the conscript — namely, parents, wife, and children.
Cubanos por el Mundo also reported Thursday that the Cuban soldiers have begun to appear in Russian propaganda pieces, which show them joining their Russian counterparts wearing a small Cuban flag on their uniforms.
🇺🇷🇺 | LO ÚLTIMO: Rusia recluta a migrantes cubanos para guerra en Ucrania a cambio de residencia.
Según el medio Ryazan Vedomosti, los cubanos ya fueron trasladados a la “zona de la operación militar especial”. pic.twitter.com/8IbhkZwuNi
— Alerta Mundial (@AlertaMundial2) May 25, 2023
During his April Latin American tour, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Havana that military cooperation between Russia and Cuba’s communist Castro regime is “developing successfully” and in accordance with agreements signed between both regimes.
Both Cuba and Russia expressed their intentions to “deepen” military cooperation in 2022.
Last week, close Russian ally Belarus announced that it would begin training Cuban military personnel on Belarussian soil and promote further military cooperation with the communist Castro regime “in a planned manner.”
Cuba is one of Russia’s closest international allies, but this has not stopped the government of Ukraine from maintaining relations with the communist Castro regime. Ukraine allows Cuba to maintain an embassy in Kyiv, which limited its services following the beginning of the “special operation.”
The Ukrainian government has also not publicly condemned Cuba for brutalizing and imprisoning citizens attempting to lay flowers at its embassy in Havana in solidarity last year.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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