Russian Navy ships, including nuclear-powered submarine, to visit Cuba

Press service of the Russian Defense Ministry/AP

In this photo taken from a video published by the press service of the Russian Defense Ministry on May 23, 2024, the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov conducts an air defense exercise in the Atlantic Ocean.

Havana, Cuba

A group of Russian warships, including a nuclear-powered submarine, will visit Cuba next week as part of “historically friendly relations,” the Cuban government said Thursday.

The “Russian frigate Gorshkov, the nuclear submarine Kazan, the fleet tanker Pashin and the rescue tugboat Nikolai Chiker” will visit the port of Havana between June 12 and 17, according to the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces in a statement published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Cuba says none of the ships are carrying nuclear weapons and insists their stop poses no threat to the region.

“Visits of naval units from other countries are a historical practice of the revolutionary government with nations that maintain friendly and cooperative relations,” the statement added.

Moscow has not confirmed the information provided by Cuba. CNN has contacted the Russian government for comment.

This is not the first time Russian navy ships have been sent to Cuba, a key Cold War ally of the former Soviet Union that briefly hosted nuclear missiles at Moscow’s request during the crisis. Cuban missiles from 1962.

Last July, the Russian Navy training ship Perekop sailed to Havana for a four-day visit.

This latest visit appears to be the largest of its kind in years.

Cuba is increasingly dependent on Russian oil and aid as the communist-ruled country endures its worst economic crisis in decades.

Cuba’s announcement comes days after US President Joe Biden authorized Ukraine to carry out limited strikes on Russian territory with US munitions. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Western countries “supplying weapons to a conflict zone is always a bad thing.”

“Ultimately, if we find that these countries are getting involved in a war against us, that what they are doing is directly implicating them in a war against the Russian Federation, we reserve the right to act in the same way. way,” Putin said on Wednesday. .

Putin added that in response, “we will improve our air defense systems to destroy missiles.” He also asked why Russia “would not have the right to supply our weapons of the same class to those regions of the world where there will be strikes on sensitive facilities of countries that are doing this against Russia?”

The Russian military is expected to increase naval and air activities near the United States this summer as part of routine maneuvers ahead of a global naval exercise in the fall, according to the U.S. State Department and Pentagon.

“Russia is likely to send combat ships to the Caribbean, with potential stops in Cuba and perhaps Venezuela,” said Pentagon spokesman Maj. » Charlie Dietz said Thursday. “Aircraft deployments or flights in the region are also planned. These deployments are part of Russia’s routine naval operations and pose no direct threat to the United States. »

Alongside the Russian ships this summer will also be a Russian Navy Severodvinsk II-class submarine, Dietz said. The submarine’s port call was approved “at least in part due to discontent in Havana” following a visit by a U.S. nuclear submarine to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba last year , did he declare.

Cuba hosted Russian ships every year between 2013 and 2020, Dietz said, adding that the exercises “impose a significant cost on the Russian Navy, which faces challenges in maintaining readiness and conducting deployments with a fleet aging”.

“Given the long history of Russian stops in Cuba, these are considered routine naval visits, particularly in the context of increased U.S. support for Ukraine and NATO exercises,” he said. Dietz said.

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