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Russian warships enter Cuba's Havana harbor amid drills

June 12, 2024

A fleet of Russian warships has reached Cuba ahead of planned military exercises in the Caribbean. US officials have said the ships are expected to stay in the region over the coming months.

Havana port with a Russian warship in the distance
The Russian flagship frigate Admiral Gorshkov waits off the coast of HavanaImage: Arial Ley/AP/picture alliance

Russian navy ships churned into Havana harbor — about 145 kilometers (90 miles) from the tip of the southern US state of Florida — on Wednesday ahead of planned exercises in the Caribbean Sea.

While both the US and Cuba have said the vessels pose no threat, the arrival of the ships is widely seen as a Russian show of force with tensions high over the Ukraine war.

What do we know about the exercises?

The first ship to arrive was a fuel ship, the "Akademik Pashin" and a tug, the "Nikolay Chiker," later joined by the flagship frigate Admiral Gorshkov, which had been waiting off the coast.

Meanwhile, the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, which Cuba says is not carrying nuclear weapons, waited off the coast.

US officials last week said the Russian ships were expected to stay in the region over the coming months.

A surfaced Russian submarine seen at the stonewalled entrance of Havana port
The Kazan nuclear-powered Russian submarine seen at the entrance of Havana port Image: Arial Ley/AP/picture alliance

An official told the Associated Press news agency that it was believed Russia's deployments "pose no direct threat to the United States."

A Russian signal to US?

Russia is a long-standing ally of both US antagonists Venezuela and Cuba, and its naval vessels and aircraft have entered the Caribbean periodically.

However, the latest operations are less than two weeks after President Joe Biden authorized the use of US-sent weapons in Ukraine to strike inside Russia to protect Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv.

That prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to suggest Moscow could use "asymmetrical steps" to respond elsewhere in the world.

Moscow's diplomatic, military, and defense doctrine places importance on Latin America and the Caribbean, with the area seen as part of the US sphere that it can use as a counterweight to Washington's activities in Europe.

rc/wmr (AFP, AP, Reuters)