Base in exchange for oil
The first reports of secret agreements between Moscow and Havana on a sharp increase in espionage against the United States appeared in July 2014. It all started with the resumption of work of the Lourdes Radio Electronic Center (REC) on the outskirts of Havana. The REC was built in 1967 and was under the control of the GRU, as well as the PGU, the KGB unit responsible for foreign intelligence. Its capabilities made it possible to intercept data from American communications satellites, telephone conversations and messages from the NASA mission control center in Florida. The number of military personnel, including civilians, reached about three thousand people. A business trip to the island was recorded several years in advance, or those who had good connections with the KGB were sent there.
In the mid-90s, rumors spread about the closure of the REC, which cost the Russian treasury $200 million a year. There was no such money in the budget, and the staff began to delay salaries. The Americans insisted on closing the spy center, tying it to the restructuring of the Soviet debt, but Boris Yeltsin did not dare to take such a step, leaving this problem to his successor. In December 2000, Putin, at a meeting with Fidel Castro, raised the issue of the fate of the REC. Castro was categorically against the closure of the center, since the money for its rent brought considerable income to the Cuban treasury and part of the payments was made by Russian oil supplies. “We will not close anything,” Putin reassured the officers of the 6th Directorate of the GRU (radio intelligence) serving at the Lourdes REC, and even made an entry in the book of honored guests. The center closed a year later.
The "hearers" were returned to Russia, part of the expensive equipment was smashed with sledgehammers, the rest was transported to Klimovsk near Moscow, where another GRU radio interception center (military unit 47747) was located. Hundreds of Cubans gathered at the gates of the REC "Lourdes" and chanted after the departing GRU officers: "Traitors!" In place of the REC, the University of Information Technologies of Havana was opened. Some of the premises were rented out to Chinese and North Korean intelligence officers, who, according to legend, studied Spanish there.
Hundreds of Cubans gathered at the gates of the closing REC "Lourdes" and chanted: "Traitors!"
However, since 2014, high-ranking visitors from Russia have been frequenting Cuba. Putin was the first to arrive and write off 90% of the Cuban debt in the amount of $ 35 billion. Dmitry Medvedev, Sergey Shoigu, Sergey Lavrov, Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service Sergey Naryshkin, Commander-in-Chief of the Navy Nikolai Evmenov, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko (curator of Cuba from the government) visited the island after him , Speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin. Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev twice visited Havana and held "enhanced Russian-Cuban interdepartmental consultations on security issues."
Cuban communist leaders also visit Moscow regularly. In November 2022, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel met with Putin. The agenda for the visit was kept secret, but pro-Kremlin media hinted that Putin, as always, was asked for money and in return offered to increase Russia's military presence on the island.
Meanwhile, Moscow and Havana strongly deny the information about the resumption of the work of the Lourdes REC.
Havana residency of the GRU and the projectionist father
Spies from the GRU, SVR and FSB under the roofs of Russian embassies have long become a commonplace, and in these structures themselves, the conspiracy of their employees is rather casually treated. The embassy in Havana is no exception: diplomats in uniform easily make their way through databases and on the Internet. Thus, the military attaché at the embassy is headed by General Pyotr Kulikov, whom The Insider sources call the main resident of the GRU in Cuba. The general communicates fluently in Spanish and English and appeared in Mexico, where he headed the GRU station.
Kulikov has three assistants under him: Maxim Deltsov, who previously served at the naval base in Gadzhiyevo, Alexander Bykov, an infantryman, and Vitaly Prokhorov, a military pilot. In addition to working with local agents, military attaches conduct educational work at the school at the Russian embassy and tell children about the war in Ukraine in the right light.
General Kulikov reports to two more GRU officers who work under the guise of secretaries of the embassy: it is known about the “diplomat” Vitaly Grechukha that before Cuba he was registered at the address of the GRU headquarters on Khoroshevskoye Highway and participated in trout fishing tournaments in the village of Misaylovo near Moscow.
Another "secretary", Sergey Donets, previously served in the 38th airborne communications command brigade, which is located in the village of Medvezhye Ozera in Shchelkovo (military unit 54164). Just before the invasion of Ukraine, the brigade was transferred to the Crimea, where it coordinated communication between the units of the Airborne Forces. In June 2022, General Roman Kutuzov, a former brigade commander, was killed near Lugansk. Apparently, Donets, who works undercover as a diplomat, is also involved in secret military communications.
The post of Minister-Counselor at the Embassy is Anna Vasenkova. She graduated from MGIMO, previously worked at the Respublika publishing house, and was deputy director of the Latin American Department of the Foreign Ministry. However, her husband Sergei Vasenkov, who lives with her in Cuba, has a much more interesting biography.
He graduated from the Faculty of Cybernetics of the Moscow Institute of Radio Engineering, Electronics and Automation (MIREA), which trains specialists in the field of information security, system analysis, and aircraft rocket science. Many MIREA graduates go on to work in the special services. Before Havana, the cybernetician Vasenkov worked at Gazprom Geofizika LLC and the representative offices in Russia of the British companies Petroalliance Services Company Limited and Ethyl Petroleum Additives Limited. The representative office of the latter company, judging by the tax base, includes 11,197 Russians and foreigners, and among them we found career intelligence officers.
Another cybernetician works in Havana - Vitaly Kondratenko. He graduated from the Faculty of Computational Cybernetics and Mathematics of Moscow State University, and in 1992 he was issued an officer's certificate No. GV 99839. Meanwhile, Kondratenko is listed in the Russian trade mission, and one can only guess what mathematical calculations he does in distant Cuba.
Among other Russian representatives, it is worth noting the head of the Aeroflot office in Havana, Yevgeny Voskoboinik, who graduated from the “American” faculty of the Military Diplomatic Academy (VDA). The GRU officer Voskoboinik's task is not only to recruit Cubans, but also to control air passengers who fly Russian planes to Havana, and then follow through Mexico to the United States. By the way, we mentioned Voskoboinik in a recent investigation about spies who are under the cover of Aeroflot around the world.
The Russian Orthodox Church also has its representative in Cuba. This is the rector of the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in Havana, Maurice (Savva) Gagloev, who previously served in the Department for External Church Relations, and then in the personal secretariat of Patriarch Kirill. Father Maurice studied at the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Faculty of International Relations and did an internship at the Bosset Institute at the World Council of Churches in Switzerland.
In Havana, the priest plays an important role in promoting the Russian world and, in order to lure the Cubans, plays Soviet war films with Spanish subtitles in the temple premises. At the same time, according to the former parishioner Elena K., the holy father is not entirely patriotic or well acquainted with the methods of conspiracy: “As soon as the lens is pointed at him, he immediately removes the St. George ribbon. And then he puts it on again, and so on several times.
"Rumourists" from the GRU, rocket men, military builder
Other Russians living in Cuba are of even greater interest. On the website of the school at the Russian embassy, we found 37 students whose parents are not listed on the diplomatic sheet.
So, the father of the schoolgirl Alena, Alexander Utochkin, served in military unit 47747 in Klimovsk before Havana, where some of the equipment was transported from the spy center closed by Putin in Lourdes. Before the liquidation of the military unit in 2013, about 80 GRU officers were on duty there, intercepting signals from American and European satellites. Others completed an internship at the center, and they were sent on long special missions under the "roofs" of Russian embassies around the world. Including, as it turned out, Cuba. In social networks, we found a communications officer from military unit 47747 Pavel Smolko, who posted a photo with Cuban girls. The photo dates from 2007, when the REC was officially considered closed.
Together with his daughter Utochkin, Alexei studies at the school, whose father Artem Polovnikov served in the village of Vatutinki-1 in the Moscow region. In Vatutinki, the Main Reception Center for Space Intelligence of the GRU is located, information from all over the world flows there.
“Now there is a completely different software equipment and operating principles, and there is no need to keep thousands of “hearers” in Cuba so that they listen to every frequency. Thirty people are enough, and they will control the United States and also hook Canada, ”a former soldier from the 309th GRU radio direction finding communication center (military unit 34608) located in the same Klimovsk, who asked not to mention his name, told The Insider.
Among the parents there are other graduates of technical universities who are not related to diplomatic work. So, the father of the schoolboy Stanislav Vitaly Kadyrko graduated from the military faculty of the Russian State Technological University named after K. E. Tsiolkovsky. Previously, he worked at the Precision Instruments Research Institute, which fulfills government orders from Roscosmos and the Progress Rocket and Space Center.
Sergei Poddavashkin, whose daughter Ekaterina is in the 10th grade, graduated from the Bauman Moscow State Technical University, from where promising graduates are recruited to the SVR Scientific and Technical Intelligence Directorate or the GRU. According to the operational base of the Ministry of Internal Affairs "Spetsuchet", in 1993, student Poddavashkin was detained for possession of weapons, but he was not brought to trial. Apparently, his father, who at that time held the position of First Deputy Minister of Railways, solved the problems with the police.
Egor and Dmitry study at the school at the embassy. Their father, Roman Lyubushkin, is also not on the list of diplomats. He graduated from the Academy of Strategic Missile Forces named after. Peter the Great and then went to serve in the GRU. "Petrovtsy", as they are called in military intelligence, under the guise of diplomats sit in almost all Russian embassies and fix targets that need to be attacked with missiles. Some graduates serve in the Main Computing Center (MCC) of the Ministry of Defense. Previously, they aimed deadly missiles at targets in Syria, and now at Ukrainian cities, as The Insider recently wrote .
The husband of the primary school teacher Inna Mikhushchenko, Dmitry, is also a rocket scientist: he studied at the Rostov Military Institute of the Missile Forces, then entered the VDA. Moreover, while studying at the academy, Mikhushchenko was registered not in the officers' dormitory, but in the student campus of the Russian University of Chemical Technology named after D. I. Mendeleev. In the same place, under the guise of chemistry students, another 12 military intelligence officers lived, and some later sat under the roofs of Russian embassies in the USA, Europe and the Middle East (the editorial office has the entire list of “students”). It is possible that the appearance in Cuba of missilemen Lyubushkin and Mikhushchenko is connected with the deployment of the S-400 Triumph missile division near Havana.
It is possible that the appearance of missilemen in Cuba is associated with the deployment of the S-400 Triumph missile division near Havana.
Then cheer headlines appeared on pro-Kremlin websites: “Our answer is the USA!”, “Finally it happened!”, “Americans are in a panic!”. At the same time, it was said that the special operation to deliver the S-400 to Cuba came as a complete surprise to the Pentagon, and now the missilemen are targeting Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. True, some bloggers soon deleted the notes, and the Ministry of Defense stated that the information about the S-400 missiles was fake.
The father of students Tatyana and Victoria, Mikhail Sapega, studied at the Military Engineering Academy (VIA). The Academy trains specialists in the construction of missile silos, bomb shelters and fortifications. In 1962, VIA graduates built shelters for Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. However, the Americans discovered the missiles, and the Cuban Missile Crisis broke out, almost leading to the third world war.
The website of the school in Havana mentions Stepan, who won the competition for the best presentation of children's drawings "Chronicle of Victory". As it turned out, the father of the teenager, General Andrei Gushchin, leads a group of military specialists in Cuba. He began his service in the marines in the Northern Fleet, in 1995 he distinguished himself during the storming of Grozny and was awarded the star of the Hero of Russia. After studying at the Academy of the General Staff, Gushchin held a number of command positions in Coast Guard units, and in 2016 he commanded marines in Syria. After popular protests in Cuba in 2020-2021, caused by a shortage of food and medicine, General Gushchin was seconded to Havana.
Give money and spy all you want
It must be recalled that Cuba is under heavy US sanctions and survives on the supply of food, oil, equipment and financial injections from other countries. The current regime in Havana skillfully parasitizes on the anti-Americanism of Putin and Xi Jinping, and in exchange for the opportunity to build spy facilities and deploy missiles, it asks for multibillion-dollar subsidies and loans, which it is unlikely to return in the next decade.
The same China has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Cuban economy: it has modernized the energy sector, telecommunications systems, built a computer assembly plant and issues loans to support the Cuban economy. Chinese experts have helped the current regime silence Cuban protests by blocking social media. Now Beijing is going to build a spy center with the appropriate infrastructure and may soon agree on the deployment of a naval base.
How much Russia pays for the presence of its military and the operation of the REC is strictly classified. Judging by open data, friendship with Cuba is very expensive for Russian taxpayers. In Havana, as part of humanitarian aid, there are endless supplies of wheat, food, spare parts for obsolete aircraft, cars and trucks. Including with the help of Russian specialists, tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and sea boats are being repaired. There were no funds in the Cuban budget for the restoration of the dome of the parliament building, and it was repaired with the money of the Russians.
Instead, Cuban rum, syrups and bananas go to Russia. Particularly surprising was the delivery to Cuba of 20,000 officers' rulers needed to indicate on topographic maps the location of enemy troops, airfields and military depots. Although in modern armies the rulers have long been replaced by digital tablets.