- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 30, 2001

MOSCOW (Agence France-Presse) Russia next month will start dismantling a key electronic listening post it has maintained in Cuba for almost 40 years to spy on the United States, the Defense Ministry said yesterday.
As Russian and Cuban officials held farewell ceremonies near Havana, Russian military officials were quoted as saying work to dismantle the Lourdes electronic spying outpost would begin around Jan. 15.
A final Russian military pullout from Cuba will mark the end of a contentious Cold War drama 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 communist ally.
President Vladimir Putin announced in October that the base Russia's largest covert military outpost abroad would be closed for financial reasons.
Some 1,500 Russian technicians and military personnel and their families work and live on the base, set up in 1964 near Havana two years after the Cuban missile crisis.
The Russian Interfax news agency quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as saying three Russian Antonov-124 transport aircraft would fly to the Caribbean island to bring back the equipment. The dismantling operation was expected to be completed by the end of January.
The decision to shut down the facility upset Cuban President Fidel Castro, who said he was in "total disagreement."
But President Bush applauded Moscow's decision. The base has long irked Washington.
Despite agreeing to abandon the base, Russia has reaffirmed its support for a U.N. resolution urging all countries to refuse to comply with a 41-year-old trade embargo against Cuba.
The Russian Foreign Ministry last month labeled the U.S.-backed blockade "a vestige of the Cold War that in no way corresponds to 21st century realities."
Only the United States, Israel and the Marshall Islands voted against the U.N. resolution, which was adopted for the 10th straight year. Latvia, Nicaragua and the Federated States of Micronesia abstained.
Cuba served as one of Moscow's most important allies in the Western Hemisphere during the Cold War, although economic relations between the two have cooled significantly since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

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