Saturday December 29, 09:07 PMRussia bids farewell to Cuba spy centre
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has started its farewells to its former communist ally Cuba as it prepares to close a big spy centre, ending four decades of Russian military presence on the Caribbean island.
As Russian and Cuban officials held farewell ceremonies near Havana, Russian military officials were quoted as saying work to dismantle the Lourdes electronic spying centre in Cuba would start on January 15.
Interfax news agency quoted the unnamed Russian defence ministry officials as saying three An-124 planes would be used to transport the centre back to Russia.
President Vladimir Putin's decision to close the costly eavesdropping centre near Havana, from which Moscow listened in to U.S. secrets through the Cold War, has met resistance from veteran Cuban leader Fidel Castro but has won applause from U.S. President George W. Bush.
A final Russian military pullout from Cuba will mark the end of a 40-year chapter in the Cold War in which Moscow sent troops and equipment across the world in the 1960s to the doorstep of the United States to shore up its new young communist ally.
The Russian foreign ministry separately announced on Saturday that official ceremonies had been held in Lourdes to mark the closure of the base.
It quoted the Russian ambassador to Cuba, A. Dmitriyev, as saying Russia remained committed to developing relations with Cuba in the future including military-political cooperation.