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Russian spy ship visits Havana

Cuban port call comes amid Ukraine tensions and Putin’s plan to expand global military presence.

Raising the ghost of the Cold War, a Russian spy ship has docked in Cuba amid Moscow’s deepening conflict with Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin’s plans to extend his country’s global military footprint.

The Viktor Leonov CCB-175, an armed intelligence-gathering vessel built for the Soviet navy in the late 1980s, quietly arrived Wednesday, according to news reports. Cuban media have so far not mentioned the visit, unlike previous arrivals of warships from its former close ally.

The Viktor Leonov, which also visited Havana in September 2012, was docked Thursday at a cruise ship terminal and is slated to leave Friday, a Russian embassy official told Reuters. He described the visit as “friendly.”

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The port call came the same day Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Russia would establish permanent bases in Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Singapore, the Seychelle islands off Africa. The Russian navy also plans to visit other friendly countries, and Moscow is negotiating to open refueling stations for its strategic bombers.

For now, Russia’s only naval base outside the former Soviet Union is in Tartus, Syria. Given that country’s deepening civil war, the fate of the base is uncertain.

Source:Michael Winter, USA TODAY

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