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Russian nuclear submarine Kazan and frigate Admiral Gorshkov arrive in Cuba

The diplomatic visit is the first by Russian naval forces to American waters since the war in Ukraine began.

Varias personas observan la fragata de clase Almirante Gorshkov, parte del destacamento naval ruso que visita Cuba, llegando al puerto de La Habana, el 12 de junio de 2024. El submarino ruso de propulsión nuclear Kazan -que no llevará armas nucleares- y otros tres buques navales rusos, atracarán en la capital cubana del 12 al 17 de junio. El inusual despliegue de militares rusos tan cerca de Estados Unidos -en particular el poderoso submarino- se produce en medio de grandes tensiones por la guerra en Ucrania, donde el gobierno respaldado por Occidente está luchando contra una invasión rusa.

(Yamil LAGE / AFP)

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A small flotilla belonging to the Russian military arrived on the island of Cuba this Wednesday, as planned. This visit was agreed upon by the governments of Russia and Cuba, historic allies since the Cold War, and also the first time since 2020 that a military ship flying a Russian flag has come so close to the U.S. East Coast.

The flotilla is headed by the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov, a warship 443 feet long and 52 feet wide. This frigate is the flagship of the class with the same name. It is the latest frigate type to join the Russian Navy, with the first units commissioned in 2018.

The Gorshkov is followed by the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, which arrived a few hours after the frigate and came to the surface in front of the historic port of Havana. Upon the arrival of the Russian ships, the Gorshkov fired 21 salutes from its main gun. It received a response from the old Cuban cannons that have guarded the entrance to the historic port of Havana since the Spanish colonial times.

Despite the wartime capabilities of these two Russian military vessels, they are not participating in a military exercise. According to defense sources consulted by CNN, the Kazan submarine is not carrying nuclear weapons. Despite everything, the Pentagon is monitoring the evolution of the small fleet and has moved maritime and air resources to the perimeter of the Florida coast in accordance with its protocols established for these cases.

Although Russian vessels have regularly visited the island of Cuba in the past decade, it is the first time they have done so since the war in Ukraine began, and relations between Russia and the United States will worsen as a result. Cuba has reiterated its support for Russia in this conflict several times, and in May, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel wished Moscow success in the conflict.

According to AFP, another Royal Canadian Navy patrol ship, the HMCS Margaret Brooke, will arrive on Friday to the island as part of the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Cuba and Canada.