Ukraine Places Between 400 and 3,000 the Number of Cuban Mercenaries in the Service of Russia

Raibel Palacio Herrera was the victim of an attack by a Ukrainian drone. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 17, 2024 — The mother of Raibel Palacio Herrera, a 21-year-old Cuban recruited by Russia who died last week in Jerson, in southern Ukraine, said that her son was used as “cannon fodder” by the Russian Army. Interviewed by the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Danelia Herrera, a resident of Havana, said that Russia will “kill everyone” who, like her son, traveled to Moscow in search of better living conditions and ended up enlisting in the invading troops.

Palacio was hit by a Ukrainian drone while trying to make a tourniquet to contain the bleeding of a leg wound, the WSJ says. Herrera’s mother, who lives in precarious conditions in a “wooden room” on the outskirts of the capital, vividly remembers his recruitment.

The young man and three other neighbors – his friends – boarded a flight to Russia in November looking for a way to “leave the poverty of the Island.” The selfies that the four Cubans took attest to the “enthusiasm” they felt for the trip. He was offered $2,200 in monthly salary, says the woman, an amount that the young man could never have dreamed of earning on the Island.

His death is the first death of a Cuban in the war against Ukraine that has been documented so far

“After five months, they were going to give him a passport and citizenship for me,” said Melisa Flores, his partner from Palacio. His death, confirmed last Tuesday by the Univision network, is the first death of a Cuban in the war against Ukraine that has been documented so far.

Cited by the WSJ, diplomat Ruslan Spirin, Ukraine’s representative in Latin America and the Caribbean, estimates that there are 400 Cuban soldiers in the service of Russia. “We take that matter very seriously,” Spirin said. Other sources, the newspaper points out, calculate higher numbers. One who does so is the Ukrainian deputy Maryan Zablotskyi, who places the number between 1,500 and 3,000.

In addition, there are mercenaries from the Central African Republic, Serbia, Nepal and Syria and volunteers – although their number is plummeting – and from other countries, including the United States. The WSJ explains that the Cuban contingent is one of the most numerous and that the economic debacle of the Island makes it easier for more and more young people to want to try their luck on the combat front. If they survive, they have their hopes set on Moscow’s reward.

Univision explained that Palacio was contacted by a Russian woman, who paid for the trip and offered him 200,000 rubles, the equivalent of $2,200. They promised him this money in exchange for construction work, but, according to the family, they had actually deceived him and sent him to the front line.

In addition, there are mercenaries from the Central African Republic, Serbia, Nepal and Syria, and volunteers from other countries

“Those people are scamming us. We thought one thing, and it turned out to be another,” Palacio Rivera said in an audio to his wife. “We were told that we were going to war, but that we were not going to fight. It was just to dig trenches.”

The couple has two girls, one of them newborn, whom their father will never know. The family resides in precarious conditions in the municipality of Songo la Maya, in Santiago de Cuba.

“I want to know where they have my son, when I can have him, because they told me that they were going to send me the body, that they were going to contact the Cuban Embassy in Russia and the Russian Embassy here. We haven’t heard anything,” said the young man’s mother.

Danelia Herrera showed Univision the message received by another young man named Gilberto Herrera Shuman last Saturday: “With immense pain I must inform you that today they brought us the news that Raibel was hit by a drone resulting in his death. My deepest condolences and that of all the colleagues who are here.” On his social networks, Herrera Shuman says that he is a Cuban from Havana and lives in the city of Vysókoye, in southern Russia.

On January 9, YouTuber Alain Paparazzi said that Yansiel Morejón, a former boxer from Santa Clara, had died at the age of 26, also at the front. The young man’s relatives did not respond to this newspaper, but another relative explained via social networks that the “official” version is that he died “of a heart attack,” although “he really died in the war.”

Palacio’s trip, in November, came two months after the Cuban regime detained 17 people for belonging to a “human trafficking network,” thus trying to detach itself from the recruitment of nationals to fight on the Russian side in the war in Ukraine.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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