Havana calling: Russia agrees to reopen spy base in Cuba, report says
Russia has provisionally agreed to reopen a major cold war listening post in Cuba that was used to spy on the United States, a Russian daily reported yesterday after President Vladimir Putin visited the island last week.
Kommersant reported that Russia and Cuba had agreed "in principle" to reopen the Lourdes base, mothballed since 2001, citing several sources from Russian authorities.
Russia had closed the Lourdes spy base south of Havana on Putin's orders, 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, and relations with the West have deteriorated amid the Ukraine crisis.
The base was set up in 1964 after the Cuban missile crisis to spy on the United States. Just 250km from the US coast, it was the Soviet Union's largest covert military outpost abroad, and had up to 3,000 staff.
It was used to listen in on radio signals, including those from submarines and ships, and satellite communications.
Ahead of Putin's visit to Cuba last week as part of a Latin American tour, Russia agreed to write off 90 per cent of Cuba's debt dating back to the Soviet era, totalling about US$32 billion.