In Cuba, 17 people were arrested who are suspected of involvement in the recruitment of Cubans to participate in hostilities in Ukraine, Reuters reports. Cuban authorities previously said they were working to “neutralize” and “dismantle” the network, which was said to operate both on the island and in Russia.
“As a result of the investigation, 17 people have now been arrested, among them the organizer of these activities within the country,” the agency quotes Cuban Interior Ministry Colonel Cesar Rodriguez.
He did not name the suspects, but said the group's leader relied on two men living on the island to recruit Cubans on behalf of Russia to fight in Ukraine.
Prosecutor Jose Luis Reyes said the suspects face penalties of up to 30 years in prison, life imprisonment or the death penalty, depending on the severity and type of crimes they are charged with, ranging from human trafficking and participation in hostilities as a mercenary to hostile actions against a foreign state.
The Cuban Foreign Ministry said in early September that law enforcement authorities had uncovered a human trafficking network operating from Russia that forced Cuban citizens to participate in hostilities in Ukraine. The ministry said it would take decisive action against those who recruit or employ Cubans to “take up arms against any country.” Havana has stated that it takes a firm position on mercenarism and has repeatedly put forward initiatives at the UN on this issue.
In May, the Ryazan Vedomosti newspaper (its founder is the regional government) wrote about several Cubans who signed a contract to serve in the Russian army. They expressed a desire to help carry out the tasks of the military operation in Ukraine, and some of them wanted to become Russian citizens in the future, the article said.