HAVANA, June 13 — A Russian nuclear-powered submarine and other naval vessels arrived in Cuba yesterday for a five-day visit to the communist island off Florida’s coast in a show of force amid spiralling US-Russian tensions.

The submarine Kazan, which Cuba says is not carrying nuclear weapons, was accompanied by the frigate Admiral Gorshkov, as well as an oil tanker and a salvage tug.

Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement that prior to entering the Havana port, the fleet “completed an exercise on the use of high-precision missile weapons”.

The unusual deployment of the Russian military so close to the United States — particularly the powerful submarine — comes amid major tensions over the war in Ukraine, where the Western-backed government is fighting a Russian invasion.

Advertisement

“We of course take it seriously, but these exercises don’t pose a threat to the United States,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told journalists.

The port call coincided on Wednesday with a meeting in Moscow between Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, as the two former Cold War allies further tighten their links.

During the meeting, Rodriguez expressed his government’s “rejection of the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) towards the Russian border,” which he said “led to the current conflict in Europe, and especially between Moscow and Kyiv,” according to a Cuban foreign ministry statement.

Advertisement

He also called for “a diplomatic, constructive and realistic solution” to the crisis.

The Kazan and Admiral Gorshkov, which is one of Russia’s most modern warships, could be seen just off Havana, which is about 145 kilometres from the tip of Florida.

The tanker Pashin and the tug, flying the white, blue and red tricolor of Russia, entered the harbour early Wednesday morning, an AFP reporter said.

“In the coming days, the crews of the ships and support vessels will take part in a number of protocol events,” Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement published by the Interfax news agency.

‘Historic relations’

Cuba’s military said the visit by the naval detachment “strictly complies with international regulations” and is a nod to “the historic relations of friendship” between Havana and Moscow.

Pentagon press secretary Singh said port calls of this nature are “routine naval visits that we’ve seen under different administrations”.

“We’re always constantly going to monitor any foreign vessels operating near US territorial waters.”

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel met with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin last month for the annual May 9 military parade on Red Square outside the Kremlin.

He wished Russia “success” in its Ukraine offensive and condemned “the geopolitical manipulation” of the United States, in comments reported by Russia’s TASS news agency.

During the Cold War, Cuba was an important client state for the Soviet Union. The deployment of Soviet nuclear missile sites on the island triggered the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when Washington and Moscow came close to war.

Relations between Russia and Cuba have become closer since a 2022 meeting between Diaz-Canel and Putin. — AFP