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BBC: Russia lures Cubans to army with offers of high pay, Russian passport

by Dmytro Basmat May 5, 2024 7:36 AM 2 min read
Foreign soldiers made prisoners of war (POW) after being captured by Ukraine as combattants within the Russian armed forces, take part in a press conference organised by Ukrainian officials in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 15, 2024, amid the Russian invasion in Ukraine. Speaking at a press conference organised by Ukrainian officials, eight POWs from Cuba, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Somalia said they were lured with promises of high wages, non-frontline roles or simply tricked. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images)
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Leaked documents reveal that Russia has been coercing Cuban citizens into the Russian Armed Forces with salaries of approximately $2,000 per month, in addition to offers of a Russian passport within months of signing up, a BBC investigation revealed on May 4.

According to the BBC, hundreds of Cubans have allegedly joined Russia's Armed Forces since the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022, online leaks reveal.

At least 200 names of Cubans were leaked in September and October 2023 by pro-Ukrainian hackers, with the BBC confirming at least 31 accounts whose names matched leaked records appearing to be in Russia or linked to the Russian army.

The BBC investigation further revealed social media posts suggesting some Cubans are receiving Russian passports within months of signing up for the Armed Forces, a theory that was corroborated by local media reports suggesting that citizenship to newly-recruited Cuban fighters would be granted "in the future."

Other Cubans who have moved to Russia on the prospects of finding work in the construction industry were reportedly instead sent to Ukraine's eastern front. In September 2023, Cuba uncovered a human trafficking ring aimed at recruiting people to fight for Russia, a violation that Cuba's Foreign Affairs Ministry "firmly rejects."

Russia continues to increase its campaign to recruit foreigners in neighboring countries and exploited migrant workers for its war against Ukraine to avoid domestic mobilization. Foreign recruits from Nepal, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Somalia, as well as additional central Asian and African countries, have served as primary targets for recruitment.

In January, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree allowing foreign nationals who join the Russian Armed Forces to be able to apply for Russian citizenship.

Cuba and Russia, two allies since the start of the Cold War, have reciprocal visa-free travel between the countries, as well as direct flights between Havana and Moscow.

‘I’d be a king in Somalia with this money:’ Foreign POWs on being lured to fight for Russia in Ukraine
Adil Muhammad, a Somali, sits in a Russian military uniform among other prisoners of war (POWs) in a press conference in Ukraine’s capital in mid-March. The former infantryman was captured in combat near Marinka in Donetsk Oblast while fighting with the Russian army in Ukraine in early 2024, five
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