Russian Spy Ship Makes Surprise Visit to Havana

(Reuters) -

A Russian spy ship slipped into Havana Bay for an unannounced visit during a period of turmoil in Ukraine and displays of military strength elsewhere in the world.

The Viktor Leonov SSV-175, part of the Vishnya class of intelligence ships, quietly entered Cuban waters earlier this week and was docked at a cruise ship terminal on Thursday, its crew casually taking in the view of the old colonial section of the Cuban capital as passers-by gawked.

Russian warships have come and gone in Cuba since the collapse of the Soviet Union, usually with much publicity, but this time there was no mention in the Cuban state-run media.

On Wednesday in Moscow, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia planned to increase its military projection abroad, including in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

The Russian Navy intelligence vessel in Havana was commissioned by the Soviet Union in 1988 near the end of the Cold War, outfitted with electronic surveillance equipment and missile defense systems and is a signals intelligence asset of the Russian Navy, according to the Russian government.

The 309-foot ship was receiving food, but no maintenance or fuel, port employees said.

A Russian embassy official described the visit as “friendly.”