Havana ceremony shines light on elite Russian spy group operating in Cuba
Gushchin was dispatched to the island in 2021, where he leads a group of military specialists operating from Cuba on espionage activities against the United States.
November 12, 2023 12:24pm
Updated: November 13, 2023 9:20am
A Russian general was honored with a medal during a ceremony on the outskirts of Havana, illuminating his role in Cuba as part of a Kremlin espionage group that was secretly reassigned to the island.
Gen. Andrei Gushchin received the "Glory of Ossetia" Medal on Nov. 7 at the Memorial Cemetery of Soviet Internationalists, a graveyard located near the monument to Issa Pliyev, which was inaugurated in Cuba on May 9, 2020.
Pliyev became rose to fame in the West mainly because of his role in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Russia reportedly reactivated the Lourdes military base for espionage activities against the United States, according to an investigation published in June by Insider magazine.
Following the protests of July 11, 2021, Gushchin was dispatched to the island where he led a group of Russian GRU military intelligence specialists posing as diplomats.
The group also included graduates of technical universities specializing in missile defense, computer science, and mathematics.
Gushchin holds the title of "Hero of Russia" and commanded Russian Marines in Syria in 2016.
Sergey Menyailo, another Russian general who has been under sanctions from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) since June 2014, was also honored during the ceremony.
Menyailo was sanctioned as a result of his purported complicity in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Menyailo was also sanctioned by the EU and the U.K. in October 2020 for his involvement in the Novichok poisoning of Alexey Navalny. He also inaugurated a Issa Pliyev monument in Cuba.
The spy group was discovered in June after they enrolled their children at the Russian embassy school in Cuba. An estimated 37 young students enrolled in the school, and it was revealed that the parents of these students were not listed as diplomats stationed on the island.
Stepan, the son of Gen. Andrei Gushchin was one of the students identified during the investigation despite his father not being listed as diplomatic personnel on the Russian Embassy's roster.
During the event, the Extraordinary Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Cuba, Guskov was also present, as reported by Alania TV, which identified Gushchin as the "Head of the Working Group of the Ministry of Defense of Russia in Cuba."
During the ceremony on the outskirts of Havana, Sergey Menyailo, a general sanctioned by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) since June 2014, was also honored.
These sanctions were imposed due to his responsibility or complicity in actions or policies that jeopardize the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Guskov and Leonid Sukhanov, former Head of the Working Group of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation in Cuba and former Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Navy, respectively, were also awarded the mentioned Medal, as reported by the press service of the Azanbek Dzhanaev Cultural Foundation.
The presence of a prominent Russian Ministry of Defense working group on the island shines a light on the Cuban regime's role in recruiting Cuban mercenaries to collaborate with Russia to fight Ukraine.
The Cuban regime has denied involvement in recruiting Cuban mercenaries to support Russia's invasion of Ukraine, insisting it is instead a human trafficking network from which several individuals have already been arrested.
Those claims have been discredited however, by evidence of flights of mercenaries from Cuba to Russia.
The ceremony took place at a time when the U.S. State Department has revealed that Russia is financing a "disinformation campaign" in Latin America through allied media outlets, including Cuban press.