Russia is luring Cubans to Ukraine with fast-tracked citizenship and a lucrative signing bonus: 'Almost all of our friends have gone'

three young men, two in NBA jerseys, one one left smoking cigarette, one in middle wearing backwards red cap, one on right with tattoos on neck and arms
Cuban men in Villa Maria, Cuba.REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
  • Russia lures Cubans to fight in Ukraine with offers of fast-tracked citizenship, Reuters reported.

  • Recruiters are also offering a signing bonus worth more than what the average Cuban makes in a year.

  • "Almost all of our friends have gone over there," one Cuban man told the news agency.

The Russian government is luring poor Cubans to fight in its war in Ukraine by offering a fast track to citizenship and a signing bonus worth more than most residents of Havana make in a year, according to an investigation by Reuters.

Russia has lost tens of thousands of soldiers since invading Ukraine in February 2022. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin has expanded the draft, spurring tens of thousands of Russian men to flee the country.

Hundreds of Cubans, meanwhile, have headed in the other direction as Russia turns to foreign fighters to fill its trenches.

"Almost all of our friends have gone over there," 24-year-old Cristian Hernandez told Reuters. One man interviewed by the news agency said he personally knew of more than 100 people who had been recruited.

In early September, the Cuban government, an otherwise staunch ally of Russia, described the recruitment of its citizens as being part of a "human trafficking network." Some recruits have complained of a bait and switch, saying they signed up for civilian jobs — a truck driver or a construction worker — only to end up in a war zone.

But Cubans interviewed by Reuters said people generally know what they are signing up for. They described being recruited over WhatsApp by another Cuban. Messages shared with the outlet show a woman, identifying herself as "Dayana," quickly offering a contract to people who message her.

"This is a contract with the Russian military by which you receive citizenship," she said in one message reviewed by Reuters.

Russia is also offering relatively generous terms to residents of a country where the average salary is under $200 a month. According to the terms offered by "Dayana," the signing bonus alone is just over $2,000 a month; the annual salary is nearly $25,000.

"Everyone here knew what they were coming for," a Cuban man at a training camp in Russia told Reuters. "They came for the war."

Read the original article on Business Insider