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Report: Russia to reopen spy base in Cuba

Cold War listening post outside Havana was used to spy on the US until it was closed in 2001.

Last updated: 16 Jul 2014 11:05
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Report says the deal to reopen the base was finalised during President Putin's visit to Havana last Friday [EPA]

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 after President Vladimir Putin visited the island-nation last week.

Kommersant newspaper reported on Wednesday that Russia and Cuba had agreed "in principle" to reopen the Lourdes base, mothballed since 2001, citing several sources from the Russian government.

"The agreements were finalised while President Vladimir Putin visited Havana last Friday," the respected daily wrote.

Russia had closed the Lourdes spy base south of Havana on Putin's orders to save money, and due to a rapprochement with the US 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.

Russia to expel US diplomat accused of spying

The base was set up in 1964 after the Cuban missile crisis to spy on the US.

Just 250km from the US coast, it was the Soviet Union's largest covert military outpost abroad with up to 3,000 staff. It was used to listen in to radio signals including those from submarines and ships and satellite communications.

"All I can say is -- finally!" one Russian source told Kommersant of the reported reopening.

The defence ministry and military high command declined to comment on the Kommersant report.

Ahead of Putin's visit to Cuba last week as part of a Latin American tour, Russia agreed to write off 90 percent of Cuba's debt dating back to the Soviet era, totalling around $32bn.

Russia paid Cuba rent of $200mln per year to use the base during the last few years it was open.

A former head of Russia's foreign intelligence service, Vyacheslav Trubnikov, told the newspaper the base would strengthen Russia's international position.

"Lourdes gave the Soviet Union eyes in the whole of the western hemisphere," he said. "For Russia, which is fighting for its lawful rights and place in the international community, it would be no less valuable than for the USSR."

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

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Source:
AFP
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