Report: Young Cubans Are Being Lured to Russia for Work and Forced to Fight in Ukraine Instead

by Karla Pérez and Yadiris Luis Fuentes


An anonymous Russian army officer has reported the presence of entire battalions comprising mainly Cubans and Serbians fighting alongside Russia in Ukraine. This revelation comes in the wake of recent news regarding young Cubans in the island who were misled into believing they were signing up for construction work, only to find themselves sent to fight for Russia.

The soldier told The Moscow Times that it was surprising to find “only Cubans and Serbians” who speak little or no Russian in these units deployed by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

A Spanish interpreter working with the Cubans confirmed that many young people are being recruited in Cuba with promises of high salaries and other benefits.

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Minrex) referred to the plan as a human trafficking ring. This statement from the Havana regime comes days after the Americatevé media outlet published several reports of young Cubans who, after signing a contract in Cuba to supposedly carry out construction work related to the war in Ukraine, denounced the agreement as a “deception” because they were recruited for the Russian army.

“Please, help us, try to get us out of here as quickly as possible because we are afraid,” Cuban Alex Rolando Vega Díaz said in a video to America Teve.

Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, coordinator of the Assembly of Cuban Resistance (ARC), said to ADN Cuba that the regime can’t deny the involvement of Cubans “because there is too much evidence; instead, they blame a criminal network. We’ll see whom they sacrifice.”

For months, Mr. Gutierrez-Boronat and the ARC have been denouncing potential links between Havana and the invasion of Ukraine due to its strong alliance with Moscow.

Former Cuban political prisoner Luis Zúñiga said to ADN that “it’s worth reminding the [Cuban] regime that they have indeed functioned as mercenaries. The Soviets paid them for every soldier sent to fight in Angola and Ethiopia. Additionally, ‘multinational’ oil companies compensated the Cuban regime with $1,000 dollars per month for each Cuban soldier tasked with guarding the oil facilities in Cabinda, an enclave belonging to Angola.”

According to Elsa Barreto, the grandmother of 19-year-old Alex Rolando Vega Díaz, who spoke with ADN on Wednesday, her grandson was recruited by a woman in Cuba who offered them a contract to go to Russia to work in construction but when he got there he was sent to the Russian military base in the city of Ryazan.

“He has always been a sick child, suffering from lung issues, which is why he never served in the Cuban military. He has no military training and doesn’t know how to use a weapon, but the Russians have told him that if he refuses, they will imprison him.”

“They beat us in our underwear. They took all our clothes and beat us. For no reason, because we spoke to them in English, and they told us that the Americans had sent us here and that we should confess,” her grandson said on a video reviewed by ADN.

“He called me once or twice, and he told me that he’s very scared,” his grandmother Elsa Barreto told ADN America on Wednesday. Her grandson, Alex Rolando Vega Díaz, 19 years old, and another Cuban friend, Andor Velazquez Garcia, were hospitalized in Russia for a month and a half after being on the battlefield, Barreto said.

According to the grandmother, her grandson told her that he returned vomiting blood, and the young Cubans are taken to the first, second, and third rows of the battlefield. When they were in the hospital the young men tried to escape through the Polish border, but the Russians stopped them and beat them up. The grandmother also said via phone that the Cuban soldiers are undernourished, and she can’t explain why, but they aren’t given enough food at the Russian military base, neither breakfast nor lunch.

“There have been two beatings; the second one happened when my grandson tried to communicate in English because he doesn’t speak Russian and they accused him of being a spy for the United States.” The grandmother said that on the plane that took them from Cuba to Russia, there were more than 200 young people and three Russians.

According to The Moscow Times investigation, recruitment is primarily done through social media groups. A woman identified as Elena Shuvalova posted job offers for one year in the Russian army with a monthly salary of 204,000 rubles in the “Cubans in Moscow” group.

Meanwhile, the Russian official who spoke to Moscow Times said the Cubans go to Russia from Cuba “directly for money. They are not Cubans living here. They sign a contract and go to fight”.

Shuvalova confirmed to the press that she helps sign contracts for illegal immigrants and claimed to have successfully sent several Cubans to the warfront. She offered to assist with accommodation and food for relatives while waiting for the first payments.

At least two members of the group posted photos in Russian military uniforms after being recruited by Shuvalova.

Meanwhile, Cuban authorities issued a statement this week denying their involvement in the deployment of Cubans to Russia.

When asked the Department of State if they were aware of the allegations of human trafficking of Cubans for the Russian war, an official simply referred us to inquire about the issue with the Cuban dictatorship.

However, during a press briefing, Vedan Patel, Principal Deputy Spokesperson, mentioned that they were in the process of evaluating additional information but could not confirm the accuracy of the details provided.

The Cubans contacted by The Moscow Times said they were motivated by the promised high pay. “I know they pay very well. It’s a good way to earn quick money,” one of them expressed.

In 2022, Russia reduced the minimum duration of military contracts for foreigners from 5 to 1 year in an attempt to attract more volunteers. However, these expectations have not been met, according to experts. On the other hand, the Cuban regime stated this week that it is facing “human trafficking operations for military recruitment” in Russia involving Cubans, following reports by independent media on this issue.

In an official statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Minrex) acknowledged the existence of trafficking groups in that country to incorporate Cubans residing there or even those from the island into the invasion in Ukraine.

This declaration by the Havana regime comes days after the media outlet AmericaTeVé published reports of young Cubans who, after signing a contract in Cuba to supposedly perform construction work related to the war in Ukraine, denounced the agreement as a “deception” as they were recruited for the Russian army.

The island regime defended itself by claiming that “Cuba is not part of the military conflict in Ukraine” and that these were assertions made by “enemies,” as is customary in the official discourse.

For months, the Assembly of Cuban Resistance (ARC) has been denouncing possible links between Havana and the invasion of Ukraine due to the strong alliance with Moscow.

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Karla Pérez and Yadiris Luis Fuentes are reporters at ADN America.
Photo “Havana Neighborhood” by Pedro Szekley CC2.0.



Reprinted with permission from ADN America.

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