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Russian Media: Moscow to Reopen Cuba Intel Base

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks on after Cuba's President Raul Castro decorated him with the Order of Jose Marti during a ceremony at Havana's Revolution Palace, July 11, 2014.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks on after Cuba's President Raul Castro decorated him with the Order of Jose Marti during a ceremony at Havana's Revolution Palace, July 11, 2014.

Russia will reopen an intelligence base in Cuba that closed in 2001, according to Russian media reports on Wednesday.

The newspaper Kommersant claims an agreement to resume operations at the Lourdes base, which was once a leading source of Cold War-era electronic surveillance on the United States, was made during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Havana last week.

The signals intelligence base located south of Havana opened in 1964 to spy on the U.S. during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Only 250 kilometers from the U.S. coast, it had radar capable of intercepting signals from a significant amount of U.S. territory, according to Kommersant.

In 2001, Putin ordered the base closed in a cost-cutting move, after repeated requests from the United States, the Russian paper said, citing sources close to the Kremlin.

The paper also quoted Raul Castro as saying that up to 75 percent of Moscow's intelligence on the United States came from the base.

Lourdes allowed the Soviet Union to intercept voice and data telephone transmissions relayed from the U.S. by satellite. It was the Soviet Union's largest foreign base, with approximately 3,000 employees.

Kommersant did not specify the details of the most recent alleged deal. But Russia agreed to give Cuba approximately $200 million worth of goods like fuel and timber, and military equipment parts, to keep the joint operation open in 1994.

According to Cuba's state media, Putin and Castro talked about "historic ties" between their countries, their economic relationship, and international affairs.

After talks with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro Putin unveiled a deal to write off $32 billion of old Soviet debt.

That is 90 percent of the total. He said the other 10 percent would be reinvested in Cuban development projects.

VOA's Jonas Bernstein and Latin American service contributed to this story.

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