Russia and Cuba have agreed to reopen the signals intelligence (SIGINT) base in Lourdes, Cuba, which was primarily used to spy on the U.S., Russian business daily Kommersant reports.
The base was set up in 1964 after the Cuban missile crisis and is 155 miles from the U.S. coast. Havana shut it down in 2001 because of financial issues and American pressure.
“Lourdes gave the Soviet Union eyes in the whole of the western hemisphere,” a former head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, Vyacheslav Trubnikov, told Kommersant. “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.”
Once the Soviet Union’s largest outside of its territory, the facility was manned by about 3,000 military and intelligence personnel who intercepted signals coming from and to the U.S. territory and provided communication for the Russian vessels in the West.
Kommersant reported that the agreement was finalised during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Havana last week. Moscow also recently agreed to write off 90% of Cuba’s debt dating back to the Soviet era, which totaled around $US32 billion.
Putin has been emboldened ever since NSA contractor Edward Snowden flew to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23 of last year after stealing an estimated 1.7 million documents from NSA servers in Hawaii. He continues to live in an undisclosed location.
“All I can say is — finally!” one Russian source told Kommersant.
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