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Russia to eavesdrop on U.S. from Cuba, paper reports

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
updated 5:02 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lourdes signals intelligence facility in Cuba to reopen, Russian paper says
  • Vladimir Putin met last week with President Raul Castro
  • Intelligence facility closed in 2001, has become overgrown and full of goats

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- The hi-tech listening post Russia used to spy on the United States from Cuba may once again gather intelligence, according to a Russian newspaper report.

The Kommersant business daily on Wednesday said the Lourdes signals intelligence facility, which was mothballed in 2001, would reopen as part of a deal struck by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Cuban President Raul Castro.

Putin visited Cuba on Friday to strengthen ties with the island and lauded a recent deal that forgave over $30 billion in Soviet-era debt that Cuba still owed its former communist ally.

During the daylong visit to Cuba, Putin and Raul Castro announced agreements on a wide variety of issues, including a pact to safeguard each country's national security.

President Vladimir Putin visits Cuba

Cuban and Russian officials and a U.S. State Department spokeswoman would not comment on the report of the reopening of the base.

READ: Putin meets Castro brothers to open Latin American tour

If Lourdes reopens, it is not clear how soon the defunct facility will again be operational or how much Russia would pay to be able to monitor U.S. telecommunications from Cuba.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia paid a reported $200 million each year to maintain Lourdes.

When the facility was closed in 2001, it further strained Russian and Cuban relations.

Part of the sprawling facility has been turned into a computer science university, but many of the Soviet-era buildings have fallen into disrepair.

Trees and bushes have grown around collapsed buildings and goats hunting for food wander around the once top secret and tightly guarded facility.

A university official who only gave his name as Benjamin said he doubted Russia could restore Lourdes to its role as a cutting edge listening post just off U.S. shores.

"Look around here," he said, gesturing at the mounds of rubble and trash, "Not even in their dreams."

READ: Google executives promote Internet freedoms on Cuba visit

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