Russian spy ship visits Havana on eve of US-Cuba talks
HAVANA, Cuba -- A Russian intelligence warship docked in Havana on Tuesday, the eve of US-Cuba talks in the Cuban capital aimed at normalising diplomatic, trade and immigration relations between the two countries.
According to AFP, the Viktor Leonov CCB-175 was moored to a pier in Old Havana where cruise ships often dock, but its arrival was not announced by Cuban authorities.
The vessel previously docked in Havana in February and March last year, staying there for a few days. Those visits were also unannounced.
The Viktor Leonov, which was originally commissioned in1988 as the Odograf and renamed in 2004, is a Vishnya class (also known as Meridian class) intelligence collection ship.
These ships, which have a crew of around 200, are large, purpose built ships designed for signals intelligence (SIGINT) and communications intelligence (COMINT) via an extensive array of sensors. The data can be transmitted to shore via satellite link antennas housed in two large radomes. The ships are armed with two 30mm guns and anti aircraft missiles.
Last year, Russian media reported that Russia and Cuba had agreed to reopen the SIGINT base in Lourdes, which was primarily used to spy on US communications and missile launches during the Cold War and was closed in 2001, partly as a result of US financial pressure following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin later denied that Russia planned to reopen the base in Cuba.