The Cuban foreign ministry says it has uncovered a human trafficking ring aimed at recruiting Cubans to fight for Russia in its war in Ukraine.

It said that Cubans living in Russia and “even some in Cuba” had been “incorporated into the military forces taking part in the war in Ukraine”.

Cuba is a close ally of Russia, but it stressed in its statement “it does not form part of the conflict in Ukraine”.

There has not yet been a response from Russia.

The Cuban foreign ministry did not specify who was behind the operation.

Last August, President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military to increase its number of soldiers after its combat forces suffered heavy losses in Ukraine.