Russian nuclear-powered submarine arrives in Cuba

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room
The Russian nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, part of the Russian naval detachment visiting Cuba, docks at Havana’s harbour, June 12, 2024. (Photo: AFP)

(AFP) — A Russian nuclear-powered submarine and other naval vessels arrived in Cuba Wednesday for a five-day visit to the communist island off Florida’s coast in a show of force amid spiralling US-Russian tensions.

The submarine Kazan, which Cuba says is not carrying nuclear weapons, was accompanied by the frigate Admiral Gorshkov, as well as an oil tanker and a salvage tug.

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Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement that prior to entering the Havana port, the fleet “completed an exercise on the use of high-precision missile weapons”.

The unusual deployment of the Russian military so close to the United States — particularly the powerful submarine — comes amid major tensions over the war in Ukraine, where the Western-backed government is fighting a Russian invasion.

It also coincided on Wednesday with a meeting in Moscow between Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, as the two former Cold War allies further tighten their links.

During the meeting, Rodriguez expressed his government’s “rejection of the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) towards the Russian border,” which he said “led to the current conflict in Europe, and especially between Moscow and Kyiv,” according to a Cuban foreign ministry statement.

He also called for “a diplomatic, constructive and realistic solution” to the crisis.

The Kazan and Admiral Gorshkov, which is one of Russia’s most modern warships, could be seen just off Havana, which is about 90 miles (145 km) from the tip of Florida.

The tanker Pashin and the tug, flying the white, blue and red tricolour of Russia, entered the harbour early Wednesday morning, an AFP reporter said.

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“In the coming days, the crews of the ships and support vessels will take part in a number of protocol events,” Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement published by the Interfax news agency.

Cuba’s military said the visit by the naval detachment “strictly complies with international regulations” and is a nod to “the historic relations of friendship” between Havana and Moscow.

A spokesperson for the United States Southern Command said in a statement: “We are not surprised by this given Russia’s long history of Cuban port calls. While our force posture has not changed, we remain staunchly focused on our national defence mission.”

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel met with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin last month for the annual May 9 military parade on Red Square outside the Kremlin.

He wished Russia “success” in its Ukraine offensive and condemned “the geopolitical manipulation” of the United States, in comments reported by Russia’s TASS news agency.

During the Cold War, Cuba was an important client state for the Soviet Union. The deployment of Soviet nuclear missile sites on the island triggered the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when Washington and Moscow came close to war.

Relations between Russia and Cuba have become closer since a 2022 meeting between Diaz-Canel and Putin.

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