Russia intends to restore Cuban spy base – MP

FILE PHOTO: The secret Russian listening station at Lourdes some 30 km south of Havana (Reuters/Andrew Winning)
As Russia restores its military-industrial cooperation with Cuba it may soon reopen the Lourdes signal intelligence center near Havana, claims a senior member of the State Duma Security Committee.

I think that in the nearest future we can restore the radio intelligence base in Lourdes that had been used first by the USSR and then by the Russian Federation,” MP Dmitry Gorovtsov (Fair Russia) said in comments to RIA Novosti.

Under conditions created on the international arena as a result of the US pressure and anti-Russian sanctions, cooperation with the Cuban Republic will develop in the direction of restoring the relations that our countries had up to mid-1980s,” he added.

However, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the military base issues as he briefed reporters about the recent talks between Russian and Cuban leaders in Moscow.

I cannot tell you anything about the bases’ opening. The issue was not on the agenda,” Peskov said.

The Lourdes spy base, AKA the SIGINT facility, was opened in 1967. The largest Soviet signal intelligence center abroad, it was manned with 3,000 personnel and operated throughout the Cold War. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the base was downscaled, but continued operation. In 1993, Raul Castro, then-Defense Minister of Cuba, said Russia received 75 percent of signal intelligence on America through Lourdes.

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However, after 1992, when Russia was asked to pay Havana hundreds of millions dollars to keep the facility open, Moscow started pondering its closure. In addition, in 2000 the United States made the closure of Lourdes a key condition for rescheduling or forgiving any Russian debt to the US.

In 2001 the Lourdes intelligence center stopped its operations.

In July 2014, Russian business daily Kommersant reported that Russia had sealed a deal with Cuba to reopen the facility during Putin’s visit to Cuba. The newspaper referred to numerous unnamed sources in its report, but shortly after it was circulated the Russian embassy in Cuba completely refuted it, claiming the report was an attempt to blacken the improving relations between the states.