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US sends submarine to Cuba after Russian ships arrive

The USS Helena is on a “routine visit” to Bay, Washington has said

File photo: The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Helena (SSN 725) ©  Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rafael Martie

An American attack submarine has docked at the US base of Guantanamo Bay in , a day after a four-ship Russian task force sailed into Havana on a long-range expedition.

USS Helena, a Los Angeles-class boat, arrived on Thursday for a “routine port visit,” the US Southern Command said in a statement. 

“The vessel’s location and transit were previously planned,” SOUTHCOM added, noting that the Helena is “conducting its global maritime security and national defense mission.”

AP described the submarine’s arrival as “a show of force” by Washington, in response to the presence of Russian ships so close to US shores.

A four-vessel task force of the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet sailed into Havana on Wednesday. Leading the group was the missile frigate Admiral Gorshkov, along with the Yasen-class nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, two of Russia’s most modern naval assets.

Two support ships, the oil tanker Pashin and salvage tug Nikolay Chiker, accompanied the task force to the Caribbean, in what Moscow described last month as a “long-distance expedition” intended to “show the flag” and “ensure a naval presence in operationally important areas.”

Read more Russian Navy ships train for long-range strikes en route to Cuba

The has made no further comments on the flotilla’s mission, leading to intense speculation in the US that its presence could be a message about the actions of Washington and its allies in Ukraine.

“Clearly this is them signaling their displeasure about what we’re doing for Ukraine,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said earlier this week, adding that the US had “no indication and no expectation that nuclear weapons will be at play here.”

The Cuban government has since stated that the Russian ships were not equipped with nuclear missiles, and that their mission was in full accordance with international law.

The Gorshkov and the Kazan practiced long-range sea strikes while en route to Cuba, as several US Navy vessels shadowed them from a distance. 

“We of course take it seriously, but these exercises don’t pose a threat to the US,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters on Wednesday.

The Kazan was commissioned in 2021, while the Gorshkov entered service in 2018. The Helena, on the other hand, dates back to 1987.

On Wednesday, just before the Helena was dispatched to Cuba, the US Navy announced that one of its crew members had died last month. The body of Sonar Technician Submarine 3rd Class Timothy Sanders was discovered on board the submarine while it was moored at Naval Station Norfolk on May 24. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is investigating the case.

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