Cuba’s Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that authorities uncovered a human trafficking ring that aimed at recruiting Cubans to fight as Russian mercenaries in Ukraine.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry reported that the Ministry of the Interior “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 from Cuba, into the military forces participating in war operations in Ukraine.”
“Cuba has a firm and clear historical position against the use of mercenaries … Cuba is not part of the war in Ukraine,” the statement added.
#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
The Ministry, however, did not formally accuse the Russian government of being behind the ring, nor did it confirm that any Cuban nationals were actually trafficked. Likewise, Cuba did not comment on any arrests or further details of the alleged ring. Russia has also not commented on the statement.
The development does come amid recent accusations of Cuban nationals being deceived into signing Russian military contracts. Last week, footage appeared online of Cubans Alex Vegas Díaz and Andorf Velázquez, both 19 years old, who said that they traveled to Russia under the false pretense of a construction contract in Ukraine.
#BREAKING Russia is hiring young Cubans to sign contracts and go to #Ukraine, at arrival in #Russia they take the passports and documentation, make them sing contracts and send them to die. They end up not being paid also, and are asking for help to escape pic.twitter.com/eDQajn97gQ
— Intermarium 24 (@intermarium24) August 26, 2023
“They told us that it was for construction, to fix up houses devastated by the war, trenches, rubble,” one of them said, “It has all been a scam. They haven’t paid us, we don’t have passports, we don’t have documents, we have nothing.” When they arrived to Ukraine, the two said they were sent towards the front for military training.
“Friends of ours are on the front lines,” one of them added, “Nobody told us any of that, that we had to go to the first or second lines.”
Journalist Juan Manuel Cao of América TeVé reported that their identities and situations were confirmed following interviews with their parents. Cary, identified as the mother of Díaz, said that the two responded to a Facebook ad about the construction contract, adding that she is worried because her son “has no military preparations … we are desperate because we don’t know about him.”