Elaboration of International and Cuban Law Against Cubans Fighting for Russia Against Ukraine       

Previous posts have discussed whether Cubans who fight for Russia against Ukraine are violating Cuban law.[1]

A recent article clearly looks at the published facts and the relevant international and Cuban law and concludes that the Cuban Government and the individual Cubans participating in that war are violating international and Cuban law.[2] Here are the points in that legal analysis:

International Law:

  • “On December 4, 1989, the UN General Assembly approved the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries. Unlike other international treaties, in this case there was no signature or ratification process. All member states of the organization [including Cuba] are obliged to comply with it.”
  • “In accordance with this international treaty, States parties undertake not to resort to the recruitment, use, financing or training of mercenaries, and to prohibit such activities.”
  • Furthermore, under this treaty, “States have the duty to extradite or prosecute mercenaries found in their territory, regardless of whether the crime was committed there or elsewhere, as well as to denounce and collaborate in the justice processes that have been carried out to continue against mercenarism.”
  • “According to [the treaty’s] articles 4, 5 and 6 and others, States Parties that do not cooperate in the prevention of crimesor fail to take all measures to prevent them from being committed in their respective territories will be complicit in mercenarism.”

Cuban Law:

  • “Article 8 of the Cuban Constitution says that everything prescribed in the international treaties in force for the Republic of Cuba will be part of the internal legal system, which also obliges the Cuban State to respect the [above] convention.”
  • “The [Cuban] Penal Code approved in May 2022 and put into force in December punishes those who commit the crime of mercenarism with sentences of ten to 30 years of deprivation of liberty or the death penalty.”
  • Article 135 of the Cuban Penal Code defines a mercenary as “any person who, in order to obtain the payment of a salary or other type of remuneration or personal benefit,joins military formations, or private military companies, wholly or partially integrated by individuals who are not citizens of the State in whose territory they propose to act.”


[1] See, e.g., these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: Cuban Criminal Prosecution of “Trafficking Network” for Recruiting Cubans for Russian Armed Forces (Sept. 7, 2023); Cuba Arrests 17 Linked to Russian Trafficking Network Recruiting Cubans for War in Ukraine (Sept. 8. 2023); COMMENT: Moscow Denies It Recruits Cubans for Ukraine War (Sept. 9, 2023); Conflicting News About Cubans Fighting for Russia Against Ukraine (Sept. 12, 2023); More Conflicting News About Cubans Fighting for Russia Against Ukraine While U.S. Continues Anti-Cuban Policies (Sept. 16, 2023);Cuban Foreign Minister: Cubans May Not Legally Fight in Foreign Wars (Sept. 17, 2023);More Details on Cubans Fighting for Russia in Ukraine (Sept. 19, 2023).

[2] Mirabal, Cuban laws force the regime to imprison mercenaries recruited for Russia’s war against Ukraine, Diario de Cuba (Sept. 22, 2023).

Signs of Increasing Connections Between Cuban Private Enterprise and U.S.  

As noted in prior posts, Cuba has a small and prospering private business sector in its economy.[1]

The Biden Administration has been indicating that it will adopt regulatory changes that will bolster that entrepreneurial sector by giving Cuban entrepreneurs access to the U.S. banking system. In addition, Cubans could access U.S. internet services (e.g., videoconferencing, e-learning, automated translation, I.T. managing services and cloud-based services). These upcoming changes are prompted by the Administration’s seeing these Cuban businesses as Cuba’s best hope to grow its economy and curb the outflow of its citizens escaping the island’s dire economy. But as of September 27th no such changes have been officially announced.[2]

On September 25-26, about 70 Cuban entrepreneurs from the island attended an event in Miami that offered advice on how to improve their businesses and navigate the restrictions imposed by the U.S. embargo.[3]

Former congressman Joe Garcia, who helped organize the trip, said, ““The Cuban American community believes that an essential part of a future democratic and prosperous Cuba includes a free enterprise system.” Garcia, who does consulting for some companies doing business with Cuba’s private sector, added that the basic idea behind the trip is to prove that these enterprises are real and not a front for the Cuban government.

The Cuban visitors consists of men and women from various Cuban provinces, some of whom have never been to the United States. They own businesses in several sectors, including transportation, construction, software development, clothes and beauty products and manufacturing. Many said they are looking to cut costs and prices by contacting providers directly so they don’t have to buy from resellers. Others are searching for a market and partnerships to help them scale their operations.

One of the visitors, Zoraida Perez Barrera, has a small but successful women’s and baby clothing business in Santa Clara, a city in central Cuba with 14 employees. She wants to find a U.S. market for her products. “All of us who are Cuban know how rooted we are in our traditions and I make the traditional newborn arrival clothes. In fact, people who live [in Miami] ask us how to buy the baby clothes.”

Some of these relatively new private companies on the island  have become major employers and significant importers of food and other essential goods at a time when “the Cuban state is broke,” said Aldo Alvarez, whose own company, Mercatoria, has been importing large quantities of wheat, chicken and cooking oil to sell on the island.

Several of the visiting entrepreneurs said they are particularly encouraged by news reported by the Miami Herald that the Biden administration is readying to announce new regulations allowing Cuban private entrepreneurs to open bank accounts in the United States —something they can’t do now because of the U.S. embargo that would make it easier for them to pay providers abroad.

Also in attendance were two of the largest Miami exporters to Cuba’s private sector: Hugo Cancio, the owner of Katapulk, a marketplace for over a hundred private enterprises, and Ariel Pereda, whose company, Pearl Merchandising & Distribution, first started selling food to Alimport, the Cuban state monopoly, and now is primarily exporting to the private sector.

A keynote address was provided by U.S. healthcare executive and billionaire Mike Fernandez, who said he believes Cuba’s new private businesses are “the beginning of something monumental that will change” Cuba, though there is always the threat that Cuba could “reverse the process” if it finds other ways to resolve its economic crisis.

This gathering also heard from U.S. lawyers and U.S. officials from the Departments of State, Treasury and Commerce, who explained the regulations that allow American companies to export goods to the Cuban private sector. Though the embargo generally prohibits any transactions involving Cuba, the Obama administration eased restrictions on transactions if the final beneficiary is a member of the private sector, not the Cuban government.

A few days earlier Cuba President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who was at the U.N. in New York City, met with approximately 40 representatives of the American private sector, including Hugo Cancio, and told them that the Cuban regime is considering allowing Cuban Americans to invest and own businesses in Cuba. But the President was not prepared to discuss in detail the new regulations the regime needs to pass to allow private companies in Cuba to receive investment and financing from American companies.[4]


 Let us hope that the U.S. soon will announce the promised new regulations to enhance Cuban entrepreneurs access to the U.S. banking system and that this sector of the island’s economy will continue to prosper. Of course, the U.S. also should end its embargo of the island and its designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, both of which would improve the lives of Cubans on the island while Cuba should end its recent expansion of Russian and Chinese military and espionage activities on the island.


[1] See, e.g., these posts to dwkcommentaries: U.S. Needs To Improve Relations with Cuba (Aug. 4, 2023);COMMENT: Developments Regarding U.S. Private Exports to Cuba (Aug. 25, 2023);1.5 Million Tourists Tourists Have Visited the Island So Far this Year (Aug. 26, 2023).

[2] Martin & Wilcary, Biden Readies Measures to Support Cuba’s Small Business Owners, Wash. Post (Sept. 18, 2023). Torres, Cuban entrepreneurs to be allowed to open U.S. bank accounts, access internet services, Miami Herald (Sept. 19, 2023).

[3] Torres, In historic meeting, Cuba’s private entrepreneurs look for opportunities in Miami, Miami Herald (Sept. 26, 2023); Almost 70 MSME ‘entrepreneurs’ from Cuba arrive in Miami looking to do business, Diario de Cuba (Sept. 26, 2023).

[4] Diaz-Canel baits Cuban-Americans who want to own businesses on the island, Diario de Cuba (Sept. 23, 2023);Reyes, Diaz-Canel did not make the announcement in the US that businessmen expected, reproaches the anti—embargo lobby, Diario de Cuba (Sept, 25, 2023).

U.S. Has Long-Term Labor Crisis  

The Wall Street Journal has set forth a detailed analysis of the U.S. long-term labor crisis.[1]

“Work experts have warned for years that the combination of baby boomer retirements, low birthrates, shifting immigration policies and changing worker preferences is leaving U.S. employers with too few workers to fill job openings. While the labor market is softening, none of those factors are expected to change dramatically in the coming years.”

“The U.S. birthrate—the number of births per 1,000 people—has been falling for decades, declining by about half since the 1960s.”

“Labor shortages can be eased by funneling more people into the labor force or making the current workforce more productive. That can be done through immigration; outsourcing more work overseas; tapping underutilized labor pools such as people with disabilities and the formerly incarcerated; and improving productivity through automation, training and refining business and production processes.”

“Offshoring, the scourge of the U.S. manufacturing workforce in the last decades of the 20th century, has lost favor with some business leaders after the pandemic highlighted the vulnerabilities of a global supply chain. Reshoring—bringing manufacturing back to the U.S.—is gathering momentum, backed by billions of dollars in government subsidies.”

Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT could help, but the technology is too new to know exactly where large language models can be reliably applied in business or work settings.”

“That leaves immigration. After falling during the pandemic because of Covid-related policies, immigration has come back strongly. But it remains a divisive issue, and business leaders say the lack of a coherent, stable policy is contributing to the labor problem.”


 This blogger agrees that U.S. should significantly revise its immigration laws to encourage the immigration of people who could be productive workers in our economy.[2] But the U.S. Congress currently is dysfunctional on many issues, including immigration.


[1] Weber & Pipe, Why America Has a Long-Term Labor Crisis, in Six Charts, W.S.J. (Sept. 21, 2023).

[2] See, e.g., the following posts to dwkcommentaries.com:  U.S. Afghan Special Visa Program Still Facing Immense Problems (Sept. 2, 2023); Overwhelmed U.S. Immigration Court System (Sept. 1, 2023):Increasing Migrant Crossings at U.S. Border Call for Legal Change (Aug. 16, 2023);Wall Street Journal Editorial: U.S. Needs More Immigrants (July 25, 2023); Other States Join Iowa in Encouraging Immigration To combat Aging, Declining Population (Feb. 22, 2023);More Details on U.S. and Other Countries’ Worker Shortages (Feb. 9, 2023);Iowa State Government Encouraging Refugee and Migrant Resettlement (Feb. 3, 2023).

At U.N., Cuban President Says Nothing About Russia and Ukraine While Condemning U.S. Sanctions    

On September 19, Cuba’s President, Miguel Díaz-Canel, addressed the U.N. General Assembly. He said, ““For 60 years Cuba has suffered a suffocating economic blockade,” an “inhumane policy” he blamed for the shortages of food and medicines on the island. He also said Cuba was not a national security threat to the U.S, and that the American government lied when it concluded that Cuba sponsors terrorism.[1]

The President, however, did not mention that Cuban authorities have made record purchases of food and agricultural products from the U.S. since 2020.

The President also said nothing about Russia’s war against Ukraine and the issue of Cubans fighting for Russia in that war. Instead, Granma (the official body of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba) published an article about the U.S. announcing new sanctions against more than 150 companies that trade with Russia “under the pretext of the conflict in Ukraine.”[2]


[1] Torres, At U.N., Cuba’s leader hammers U.S.’s ‘cruel policies’, but stays silent on Russia, Miami Herald (Sept. 19, 2023); Diaz-Canel attacks the US at the UN while waiting for dollars for his MSMEs, Diario de Cuba (Sept. 19, 2023);[Diaz-Canel Speech at U.N.] It will always be an honor to fight for justice (+Video), Granma (Sept. 19, 2023); Editorial, the global sanctioner attacks those who cooperate with Russia, Granma (Sept. 19, 2023).

[2] US sanctions more than 150 technology companies that trade with Russia, Granma (Sept. 18, 2023).

More Details on Cubans Fighting for Russia in Ukraine 

CNN and Time Magazine have provided more details on Cubans fighting for Russia in Ukraine.

CNN’s Report[1]

Family members in Cuba have told CNN, “For months, hundreds of Cubans have quietly left the island to fight for Russia in its war in Ukraine, chasing promises of money and Russian citizenship from shadowy online recruiters.”

These Cubans in the war left the island because of the absolutely desperate economic conditions on the island and the promise of good-paying construction jobs in Russia. Once in Russia, however, they were sent to fight in Ukraine as shields for the Russian troops.

Time Magazine’s Report[2]

A 19-year-old Cuban, Alex Vegas Diaz, said he had accepted an offer on WhatsApp to make good money doing “construction work” for the Russian military. But when he arrived in Russia, he and a Cuban friend were taken to a Russian military base, outfitted with weapons and sent against their will to the front lines of the Ukraine war. Soon, however, he became ill and was sent to a Russian hospital. On an August 31st video, he said, ““What is happening in Ukraine is ugly—to see people with their heads open before you, to see how people are killed, feel the bombs falling next to you. Please, please help get us out of here.”

This report went viral, prompting other Cubans on the island to seek information about their family members who had gone to Russia, and Time determined that Vegas Diaz and the others had been “caught up in a large, organized operation that has openly recruited hundreds of Cuban volunteers to fight in Moscow’s increasingly depleted army since July. They also suggest that the trafficking allegations may be an attempt by the Cuban government, a longtime ally of Russia, to maintain its stated neutrality on the war in Ukraine, four Cuba experts and former U.S. officials tell TIME.”

This past June  posts began to appear on Cuban Facebook groups advertising a “contract with the Ministry of Defense for military service in the Russian army. Recruits were offered a monthly salary of 204,00 rubles, or $2,086 U.S. dollars—an almost unimaginable sum in Cuba, where the average salary is less than $50 per month. On Sept. 5, a Ukrainian hacker group posted what appeared to be a version of the six-page contract that recruits signed once they arrived in Russia, translated into flawless Spanish. It required a one-year commitment and came with benefits that included a one-time enlistment fee of 195,000 rubles (roughly $2,000) and 2 million rubles (roughly $21,000) for their families if they are killed. The contract also asks recruits to fill out a questionnaire about why they are enlisting and how they feel about military service. The terms of the contract match those publicly promoted by the Russian Defense Ministry, including the possibility of Russian citizenship for the recruit and their families per a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin last year.”

According to Time, “It is unclear how many conscripts the recruiting push yielded. The hacked emails reviewed by TIME only document the nearly 200 recruits who passed through the military office in the Russian city of Tula in July and August. Cuban human-rights groups’ estimates range from around 750 recruits to more than 1,000. The Miami-based Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) told TIME that of the 746 recruits they have tracked, at least 62 appear to be part of a highly-trained Cuban special forces outfit known as the Avispas Negras, or Black Wasps. TIME reviewed 199 passports of Cubans, aged 18 to 69, who appear to have enlisted with the Russian army since mid-July, and matched more than 20 to social-media profiles that corroborated their names, faces, and hometowns.”

“Perhaps the clearest indication that the vast majority of these recruits went to Russia willingly, and did not act as though they were engaging in an illegal scheme, comes through their own social-media posts. On Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, many of these recruits posted photos with Russian tanks, smiled with other Cubans in their new Russian military uniforms, and boasted about sending money back home. In Facebook comments, family members openly discussed brothers, husbands, and cousins who were ‘in Russia’ and ‘in the war.’”

“The discovery of the recruiting effort has complicated the delicate line Havana has tried to walk since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Cuba has been crippled by a 60-year U.S. embargo, island-wide blackouts, and a hunger crisis. It relies on Russia for food, oil, and economic investment, and recently signed a series of bilateral deals in which Moscow pledged relief for food and oil shortages and investment in the island’s struggling sugar and steel industries in exchange for land leases. At the same time, Cuba can’t afford to further jeopardize its relations with Western nations who have sought to isolate Russia as punishment for its war in Ukraine. The European Union is Cuba’s second-biggest trading partner and largest foreign investor. Ukraine, which has made it clear it believes Havana is involved in the recruiting scheme, has publicly pushed for Western nations to retaliate by “severing diplomatic relations with Cuba.”

Although the Cuban government has tried to deny Russian recruitment of Cuban for the Ukraine war, “dozens of the passports reviewed by TIME had been issued very recently, making it unlikely, experts say, that the Communist government, which keeps close tabs on its citizens, would not have detected the sudden exodus. Cuba analysts reject the possibility that Havana was unaware of the recruiting push. Several recruits told family members who spoke to TIME, as well as human rights groups, that Cuban officials intentionally did not stamp their passports before they exited the country to board their flight to Moscow, in an apparent attempt to maintain deniability.”

According to Chris Simmons, a Cuban spycraft expert and former counterintelligence officer with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, “The idea that the [Cuban] government was not involved is ludicrous. Nothing happens without their involvement.”  This view is “widely shared by Cuba experts who spoke to TIME. By pledging to prosecute any ‘illegal’ recruiting, the Cuban government gets the best of both worlds: ‘It supports its ally,’ Simmons says, ‘and because the passports aren’t stamped, there’s no liability of a body count, because there’s no proof they ever left.’”


[1] Oppmann, Why Cubans are fighting for Russia in Ukraine, CNN.com (Sept. 19, 2023).

[2] Bergengruen, How Russia Is Recruiting Cubans to Fight in Ukraine, Time (Sept. 18, 2023) (even more details are provided in the Time article).


Cuban Foreign Minister: Cubans May Not Legally Participate in Foreign Wars

Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, on September 15 publicly stated, “The unequivocal and invariable position of the Cuban Government, in accordance with national legislation, is contrary to the participation of Cuban citizens in any conflict, against mercenarism and against human trafficking.”[1]

This statement apparently was based on “section eight and Article 135 of [Cuba’s] Penal Code [specifying that] the  crime of mercenarism qualifies for “any person who, in order to obtain payment of a salary or other type of remuneration or personal benefit, joins military formations, or private military companies, wholly or partially made up of individuals who are not citizens of the State in whose territory they propose to operate.” The statutory punishment for this crime is “ imprisonment for ten to 30 years, perpetual imprisonment or the death penalty.”

Comment on Cuba’s Actions in Ukraine[2]

Orlando Gutierrez Boronat, a Cuban-American and the Coordinator of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, writing from Kyiv, Ukraine, said it “is not plausible” that the presence of Cubans fighting for Russia in Ukraine is “the work of a criminal network.” Instead, “Moscow is assisted by an implacable enemy only 90 miles away” from the U.S.


[1] Damage control: the regime says It opposes participation of Cubans in any conflict, Diario de Cuba (Sept. 15, 2023).

[2] Boronat, Cuba does what it does best—snuff out freedom, this time on Moscow’s behalf/Opinion, Miami Herald (Sept. 17, 2023).

More Conflicting News About Cubans Fighting for Russia Against Ukraine While U.S. Continues Anti-Cuban Policies

The last several days have seen more conflicting news reports about whether Cuba condemns or tolerates Cubans fighting for Russia in the Ukrainian war. There also has been an U.S.-Cuba meeting on various issues and U.S. refusal to cancel its designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism as well as the U.S. continued authorization of its embargo of the island.

Cuba and the Ukrainian War[1]

On September 14, Reuters reported that RIA, a Russian state-owned news agency, had stated that “Cuba is not against  the legal participation of its citizens in Russia’s war in Ukraine.” RIA’s stated source was the Cuban ambassador to Russia, Julio Antonio Garmendia Pena, who was quoted as saying, “We have nothing against Cubans who just want to sign a contract and legally take part with the Russian army in this operation. But we are against illegality” and those recently arrested in Cuba “had been engaged in illegal activities and had broken the law.”

More details about the Ambassador’s statement were provided by the Miami Herald, which reported that he said the Cubans who had been arrested were “’swindlers’ who had broken the law” and “We are talking about bad people who, on the basis of such an important issue as a military operation, as relations between our countries, want to earn money, want to put money in their pocket and engage in illegal activities.”

A Cuban Foreign Ministry official in Havana, however, on September 14, issued the following statement:

  • “Cuba reiterates its firm historical position against mercenarism and upholds its active role at the United Nations against that practice. Cuban laws are very explicit in relation to the criminalization of crimes such as trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants and mercenarism.”
  • “Cuba likewise reiterates that it is not a part of the war conflict in Ukraine.  It also states that, following the uncovering of a trafficking in persons network operating from Russia, intended to recruit Cuban citizens settled in that country, as well as others residing in Cuba, so that they would join the military forces taking part in war operations in Ukraine, several attempts of this same nature have been neutralized and criminal proceedings have been established against persons involved in such activities.”
  • “The Cuban authorities maintain an exchange with their Russian counterparts in relation to these incidents, given the excellent level of relations that exist between both countries, with the purpose of clarifying these events.”

The Miami Herald also reported that a “U.S. State Department official said the administration is “concerned by reports alleging young Cubans have been deceived and recruited to fight for Russia in its brutal full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s need to use deceit to attract foreign fighters indicates both its military weakness and its disregard for human life. We continue to monitor the situation closely.”

In addition, the Miami Herald reported that the chairman of the Ukrainian parliament’s committee on foreign relations, Oleksandr Merezhko, stated, “the Cuban communist regime pretends that it has nothing to do with this ‘human trafficking.’ In reality, this totalitarian regime is on the side of the aggressor.”

U.S. Actions Regarding Cuba[2]

The  U.S. State Department confirmed that on September 11, 2023,  Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols met with the Cuban vice foreign minister and discussed “human rights, migration, and other issues of bilateral interest” after a number of meetings with officials from the Cuban embassy in Washington. But the U.S. did not agree to terminate its designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Another U.S. action continuing its hostility towards Cuba was President Biden on September 13, 2023, signing another year’s extension of the Trading with the Enemy Law, which is the basis for the U.S. embargo of the island. That document urged the Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, to enforce this sanctioning measure against the Cuban economy, and emphasized that the embargo “is in the national interest” of the United States.


The U.S. needs to end its embargo of Cuba and its designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. In addition, the U.S. needs to press Cuba to stop assisting Russia in its war against Ukraine and to publicly clarify Cuba’s policies and actions regarding Ukraine.


[1] Conflicting News About Cubans Fighting for Russia, dwkcommentaries.com (Sept. 12, 2023); Cuba is not against its citizens fighting on Russia’s side in Ukraine, RIS cites envoy, Reuters.com (Sept. 14, 2023); RIA Novosti, Wikipedia; Torres, Cuban diplomat says island will not stop citizens from fighting for Russia in Ukraine, Miami Herald (Sept,. 14, 2023); Statement by Lleana Nunez Mordoche, Director for Europe and Canada of the General Division of Bilateral Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba (Sept. 14, 2023). Damage control: the regime says it opposes the participation of Cubans in any conflict, Diario de Cuba (Sept. 15, 2023).

[2] U.S. State Dep’t, Department Press Briefing—September 14, 2023;


Torres, American and Cuban officials meet ahead of Cuban leader’s trip to UN meeting in New York, Miami Herald (Sept. 14, 2023); Spetalnick, High-Level US-Cuba talks yield no progress on top disputes, Cuban official says, Reuters.com (Sept. 14, 2023); Senior Cuban and US officials hold an unusual meeting in Washington, Diario de Cuba (Sept. 15, 2023); Capote, Biden ratifies the blockade with his signature: the genocide against Cuba continues, Granma.com (Sept. 14, 2023); White House, Memorandum on the Continuation of the Exercise of Certain Authorities under the Trading With the Enemy Act (Sept. 13, 2023).


Conflicting News About Cubans Fighting for Russia  

On September 11, the European Union approved Cuba’s assertion that there had been illegal recruitment of Cubans to fight for Russia in the war against Ukraine. A spokesman for the office of the head of European diplomacy said that it was “unacceptable for Russia deceptively attract Cuba citizens or any other country to join Russia’s illegal war of aggression” and that the EU “welcome[s] all the efforts made by Cuba to put an end to these practices.”

Also on September 11, the Cuba Siglo ideas laboratory stated, “all the evidence points towards  a collaborative and concerted effort ” between the Governments of Russia and Cuba  “to organize a  recruitment network.”[1]


[1]  The EU ‘welcomes’ the regime’s version of the recruitment of Cubans in Russia, Diario de Cuba.com (Sept. 12, 2023).

Cuba Arrests 17 linked to Russian Trafficking Network Recruiting Cubans for War in Ukraine   

As reported in yesterday’s post to this blog, the Cuban Government on September 4th stated that it “has detected and it is working to neutralize and dismantle a human trafficking network that operates from Russia in order to incorporate Cuban citizens living there and even some living in Cuba, into the military forces that participate in military operations in Ukraine. Attempts of this nature have been neutralized and criminal proceedings have been initiated against those involved in these activities.” Moreover, “Cuba’s enemies are promoting distorted information that seeks to tarnish the country’s image and present it as an accomplice to these transact actions that we firmly reject.”[1]

On September 7, Cubavision (Cuba’s national television news) reported that “Lieutenant Colonel Frank Hernández Estrada, head of [Cuba’s] Department of the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation, of the Ministry of the Interior (Minint), stated that, after an investigative process, 17 people acknowledged their participation in human trafficking operations for military recruitment purposes and that three of them “ are directly linked to the coordination of a group that would be incorporated into the war conflict in Ukraine.”[2]

This report also stated that “Minint maintains the investigation process open, works on the neutralization and dismantling of networks or citizens who, from the national territory, participate in any form of human trafficking for the purposes of recruitment or mercenarism that implies that citizens Cubans use weapons against another country.”

“José Luis Reyes Blanco, chief prosecutor of [Cuba’s] Directorate of Criminal Proceedings of the Attorney General’s Office, . . . stated that these crimes are classified as very serious, because they affect legal assets of special significance and connotation for peace and international law.”

“Eva Yelina Silva Walker, director of International Law at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Minrex), affirmed that Cuba plays an active role in the UN, in repudiation and condemnation of mercenarism, human trafficking and smuggling. ‘We are committed to compliance with the international instruments to which the Island is a State party, such as the United Nations Convention against transnational organized crime and its protocols on human trafficking and migrant smuggling.’”

All of these officials “stated, categorically, that Cuba is not part of the war conflict in Ukraine.”


[1] Cuban Criminal Prosecution of  “Trafficking Network” for Recruiting Cubans for Russian Armed Forces, dwkcommentaries.com (Sept. 7, 2023).

[2] Cuba vigorously confronts human trafficking for military recruitment purposes (+ Video), Granma (Sept. 7, 2023); Live Updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine (Cuba arrests people linked to Russian trafficking network recruiting Cubans for war in Ukraine), cnn.com (Sept. 8, 2023)


Cuban Criminal Prosecution of “Trafficking Network” for Recruiting Cubans for Russian Armed Forces 

On September 4, Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement that its Ministry of the Interior “has detected and it is working to neutralize and dismantle a human trafficking network that operates from Russia in order to incorporate Cuban citizens living there and even some living in Cuba, into the military forces that participate in military operations in Ukraine. Attempts of this nature have been neutralized and criminal proceedings have been initiated against those involved in these activities.” Moreover, “Cuba’s enemies are promoting distorted information that seeks to tarnish the country’s image and present it as an accomplice to these transact actions that we firmly reject.”[1]

This statement also said, “Cuba is not part of the war in Ukraine. It is acting and it will firmly act against those who within the national territory participate in any form of human trafficking for mercenaryism or recruitment purposes so that Cuban citizens may raise weapons against any country.”


Finally, according to the Cuban statement, “Cuba has a firm and clear historical position against mercenaryism, and it plays an active role in the United Nations in rejection of the aforementioned practice, being the author of several of the initiatives approved in that forum.”

Without mention by the Cuban Ministry, a Russian newspaper in May had reported that “’several’ Cuban citizens had volunteered as contract soldiers in the Russian army, and some hoped to become Russian citizens in exchange for their service.”

Also without mention by the Cuban Ministry, “The Moscow Times [an independent English-language and Russian-language online newspaper now headquartered in Amsterdam] reported that a social media account under the name of Elena Shuvalova had for months been posting ads in a Facebook group called “Cubans in Moscow” offering a one-year contract with the Russian Army. On Tuesday, the group had nearly 76,000 members.”[2]

The U.S. State Department said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” by this news.


This situation poses a difficult problem for Cuba.

As noted in other posts, Cuba and Russia recently have commenced various means of cooperating, and Cuba presumably does not want to interfere with that cooperation. Moreover, as previously mentioned, “Cuba has a firm and clear historical position against mercenaryism, and it plays an active role in the United Nations in rejection of the aforementioned practice, being the author of several of the initiatives approved in that forum” and Cuba does not want to blemish that reputation.[3]

Finally, as is well known, the United States is a strong supporter of Ukraine in its war with Russia, and Cuba does not need another point of contention with the U.S.


[1] Statement of [Cuba] Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cuba counters human trafficking operations for military recruitment purposes (Sept. 4, 2023); Satronova, Cuba Says Its Citizens Were Lured to Fight in Russia’s Wat om Ukraine, N.Y. Times (Sept. 5, 2023); Sheridan & Dadouch, Cuba Says Russian human traffickers lure citizens to war with Ukraine, Wash. Post (Sept. 5, 2023); Cordoba, Cuba Says Russian Ring Is Recruiting Cubans to Ukraine, W.S.J. (Sept. 5, 2023).Torres, Cuba says it’s dismantling human trafficking ring sending Cubans to fight for Russia in Ukraine, Miami Herald (Sept. 5, 2023); U.S. State Dep’t, Department Press Briefing—September 5, 2023.

[2] The Moscow Times is an independent English-language and Russian-language online newspaper now headquartered in Amsterdam. (The Moscow Times, Wikipedia. .)

[3] E.g., U.S. Needs To Improve Relations with Cuba, dwkcommentaries (Aug. 4, 2023).