MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin denied yesterday Russia plans to reopen a Cold War listening post in Cuba as new US sanctions over Ukraine ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Moscow.
Russian broadsheet Kommersant, citing several official sources, reported on Wednesday that Moscow and Havana had agreed in principle to reopen the Lourdes spy base during Putin’s visit to the Communist-run island last week.
Putin however denied that Russia was reopening the base set up in 1964 after the Cuban missile crisis saw the United States and the Soviet Union reach the brink of nuclear confrontation.
“That is not true, we have not discussed this issue,” Putin told reporters in Brasilia.
“According to an agreement with our Cuban friends we shut down our centre. We have no plans to resume its work,” he said.
The Kremlin strongman spoke just hours after Washington targeted Russian companies in the finance, military and energy sectors.
The European Union also stiffened punitive measures against Russia after fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Moscow separatists intensified.
Russia closed the Lourdes spy base south of Havana on Putin’s orders in 2001 to save money and due to a rapprochement with the United States after the September 11 attacks.
But Moscow has since shown a new interest in Latin America and its Cold War ally Cuba as relations with the West have deteriorated amid the Ukraine crisis. Just 250 kilometres from the US coast, Lourdes was the Soviet Union’s largest overseas covert military outpost with up to 3,000 staff.