The Russian eavesdropping post at Lourdes, as it was in 2000. Photo: Reuters
Miami: Russian President Vladimir Putin is denying reports that his government had reached an agreement to reopen the Lourdes electronic eavesdropping base in Cuba, which once monitored a broad range of US communications.
"We closed this centre in agreement with our Cuban friends. We do not intend to renew its activities," Mr Putin declared in a statement published by the Kremlin.
The Moscow newspaper Kommersant on Tuesday quoted unidentified sources as saying that Russia had agreed to reopen the Lourdes base near Havana, unleashing concerns about US relations with both Havana and Moscow.
While in Havana last week Vladimir Putin met with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Photo: AP
Other Russian and foreign news media later reported they had confirmed the Kommersant report with their own sources on Wednesday, and several Russian defence analysts commented on the report as if they believed it were true.
The report was published while Mr Putin was facing sensitive diplomatic tasks in a Brazil, meeting with leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – known as the BRICS bloc – and preparing to meet the heads of state of the UNASUR bloc, made up of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama also unveiled new and tougher sanctions on Russian banks and defence and energy companies in retaliation for its occupation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian gunmen in eastern Ukraine.
Lourdes was Moscow's largest intelligence facility abroad until its closure in 2002, with as many as 1500 KGB and GRU military intelligence officers staffing an array of antennas and computers in the sprawling base near Havana.