Ukraine Warns of the High Number of Cubans Fighting With Russian Troops

Darío Jarrosay at the press conference held in Kiev, where several prisoners of war were interviewed

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Kiev, 16 March 2024 — The Ukrainian body that deals with prisoners of war warned this Friday of the high number of Cubans fighting with Russian troops in the war in Ukraine, and reproached the authorities of Havana for their tolerance of Russian recruitment operations on the Island.

“We see photographs and videos of the Russian side where many mercenaries from Cuba are seen,” said Petro Yatsenko, the head of the Ukrainian Committee for the Treatment of Prisoners of War. At a press conference held in Kiev, he warned of the growing number of mercenaries recruited by Russia from the so-called Global South countries.

Asked by EFE about the position of the Cuban Government in the face of Russia’s actions to attract Cuban citizens into the ranks of its Army, Yatsenko stated that Ukraine has no evidence of Havana’s official participation in this type of effort. “We cannot say that it is a (Cuban) state program, but we know that no one (in Cuba) opposes it,” said the Ukrainian official, who also said that “Russian agitators” work without restrictions in Cuba.

“We cannot affirm that it is a state (Cuban) program, but we know that no one (in Cuba) opposes it”

Yatsenko made these statements at a press conference in which eight prisoners of war from Nepal, Somalia, Sierra Leone and Cuba also participated, imprisoned by Ukrainian troops while fighting with Russian forces.

Darío Jarrosay, a Cuban prisoner of war, is a 35-year-old teacher and musician from Guantánamo. He said he had been attracted to Russia by a false offer on Facebook to work in construction, and he was then dragged to fight with the Russian Army on the front. “I joined the Russian Army because, in Cuba, I received a banner (announcement) on Facebook saying that people were needed for construction.”

Jarrosay explained that he traveled to the Russian Federation from Cuba after filling out a form to work in construction. “It wasn’t to enter the war; I never agreed to enter the war,” he said at the event held in the Ukrainian capital. “When I arrived in Russia, I found myself in the war,” he said. This Cuban geography teacher and musician is now waiting for a solution to his case as a prisoner of war in Ukraine.

Petro Yatsenko, from the Ukrainian authority that deals with prisoners of war, said at the same press conference that Ukraine is open to negotiating the return of these fighters to their countries of origin. Jarrosay said he was on the flight to Russia with five other Cubans who were also looking for work in Russia. He found other Cubans In the Russian Army, and he received 250,000 rubles (about 2,500 euros) a month for fighting on the Russian side, a salary much higher than the one he received in Cuba.

Asked about the message he sends to his compatriots, Jarrosay recommended that Cubans “not go.” “Everything is a hoax,” he said. “Overnight when you go to your job you find yourself in the war.”

Along with Jarrosay, five Nepali prisoners of war, one from Sierra Leone and one from Somalia, participated in the press conference. All of them were captured by Ukraine while fighting as mercenaries with the Russian side and claimed to have been deceived when they were recruited. Some of them said that they ended up in the Russian Army after traveling from Cuba to look for civilian jobs. Others claimed to have been sent to the front after having agreed to carry out military tasks behind the front lines.

The other prisoners of war reported having been victims of deception to be recruited by the Russian Army.

By making these testimonies public, Ukraine is hoping to prevent other citizens of low-income countries from accepting jobs in Russia or positions in the Russian Army that end up leading them to kill Ukrainians, or to being captured or dying at the front, according to Yatsenko.

According to the Ukrainian official, Russia recruits more and more mercenaries from countries in Africa, Asia and, to a lesser extent, Latin America, to make up for casualties in their ranks. Ukraine has been open to negotiating the return of these captured fighters to their countries.

Translated by Regina Anavy

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.