Friday, July 18, 2014

Putin denies deal for reopening Cuba base

Posted on Thursday, 07.17.14

Putin denies deal for reopening Cuba base

Russian President Vladimir Putin is denying reports that his government
had reached an agreement to reopen the Lourdes electronic eavesdropping
base in Cuba, which once monitored a broad range of U.S. communications.

"We closed this center in agreement with our Cuban friends. We do not
intend to renew its activities," Putin declared in a statement published
on a Kremlin Web page.

The Moscow newspaper Kommersant Tuesday quoted unidentified sources as
saying that Russia had agreed to reopen the Lourdes base near Havana,
unleashing concerns about U.S. relations with both Havana and Moscow.

Other Russian and foreign news media later reported they had confirmed
the Kommersant report with their own sources on Wednesday, and several
Russian defense analysts commented on the report as if they believed it
were true.

Putin was facing sensitive diplomatic tasks when the report was
published in a Brazil meeting with leaders of Brazil, Russia, India,
China and South Africa – known as the BRICS bloc – and preparing to meet
the heads of state of the UNASUR bloc, made up of Argentina, Bolivia,
Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam,
Uruguay and Venezuela.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama also unveiled new and tougher
sanctions on Russian banks and defense and energy firms in retaliation
for its occupation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian gunmen in
eastern Ukraine.

Lourdes was Moscow's largest intelligence facility abroad until its
closure in 2002, with as many as 1,500 KGB and GRU military intelligence
officers manning an array of antennas and computers in the sprawling
base near Havana.

Putin shuttered the Cuba base and a naval facility in Vietnam to clear
the way for obtaining U.S. loans and save the $200 million a year that
Moscow had paid to Havana for rent since 1992. The University of
Computer Sciences now sits on the grounds.

Several U.S. analysts and lawmakers cautioned Wednesday that if Russia
really reopens Lourdes, that would put a damper on the widespread
speculation that Obama will launch a strong effort to improve relations
with Cuba after the November elections.

"By inviting one of America's adversaries to a spy facility only 90
miles from our shores, the Castro regime is actively working to harm key
U.S. national security interests," Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, said
in a statement late Wednesday.

Source: Putin denies deal for reopening Cuba base - Cuba - -

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