Cuban citizens deceived and recruited to fight Ukraine: ‘We were scammed’

They are offered a so-called construction job, citizenship and $2,000 monthly salary in Russia. Upon arrival, they receive military training and threats if they refuse to participate in the Russian invasion.

Young Cubans are being deceived and recruited to fight against Ukraine. Several citizens explained that they were promised a construction job with a monthly salary of $2,000 in Russia and, allegedly, Russian citizenship. But the reality is that it is a scam, and when they arrived in Russian territory, they were taken to a camp for military training and then sent to war.

This is the case of Andorf Antonio Velázquez García and Alex Rolando Vega Díaz, both 19 years old. The young men revealed that their passports were taken away and that they were forced to go to military training. They stressed that, when they said they did not want to go to war, they were threatened with up to 30 years in prison.

They explained that the idea of going to Russia came after friends on the island provided them with the contact of a Cuban woman who offered them a contract to carry out construction work. Members of the network, which included at least two Russian women, bought them a ticket to fly from Varadero to Moscow. They traveled on a flight with at least 200 people in the same situation.

We were scammed. We didn't come to war. We were told that we would only come to work in construction, such as picking up rubble and building trenches. When we arrived here, they gave us a uniform and a rifle and sent us to Ukraine.

Already in Russia, during one of the training sessions, they fainted and were taken to a military hospital on the border with Poland and, precisely, at that moment they saw the opportunity to tell the media what had happened to them:

"I, from my heart, tell all Cubans who plan to come here not to come. This is crazy," Vega Diaz said.

"Cubans have no protection"

A similar story is that of Carlos Jiménez Vasco. He told the Spanish newspaper ABC that he lived in Russia at the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine and had to leave because the Russian military wanted to forcibly recruit him. He and his wife traveled to Cuba, from where he had to flee shortly after due to pressure from Cuban State Security for his opposition to the armed conflict.

"In Russia they capture a lot of foreign men. What sets our nation apart is that we are the only ones without protection in our country. Even the ex-Soviet republics warn their citizens not to get involved in such a war and condemn it. The Cuban embassy is the opposite. We Cubans have no protection," Jimenez told ABC.

"Cuba's enemies promote distorted information"

After the stories of the deception of these Cubans became known, the Castro dictatorship issued a statement in which it denied any link with this type of recruitment activities. This comes despite the fact that the complaints highlight that there must be some kind of participation by the regime, because when they arrived, they were welcomed by a member of the Cuban military. In addition, the dictatorship announced that it arrested 17 people who were allegedly involved in the illegal recruitment of Cubans, according to the BBC.

"Cuba's enemies promote distorted information that seeks to tarnish the country's image and present it as an accomplice to these actions, which we categorically reject," Cuba's Foreign Ministry wrote in the statement.

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols said the presence of Cuban citizens or other nationalities within the Russian military is very worrisome. He argued that this type of recruiting could be considered as human trafficking and that it is therefore necessary to publicize more information about what is happening.

"It is something very worrying the possible presence of Cubans and other nationalities fighting in the ranks of Russia inside Ukraine ... the recruitment could be human trafficking, they could be deceiving people and other people could be having a role in the recruitment in an official way," Nichols said during a conversation with the Voice of America.

The alliance between Cuba and Russia is no secret to anyone. Since the beginning of the conflict, Cuba has been one of the Kremlin's main allies. In November 2022, in the midst of the Russian invasion, dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel met with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.