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Russia stops Cubans trying to enter EU on air beds

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image captionThe River Narva (file image), with Estonia on the left and Russia on the right, flows into the Baltic Sea

Three Cubans who took the desperate step of trying to cross one of Europe’s most sensitive border rivers on air beds now face deportation from Russia.

They were caught trying to paddle across into the EU state of Estonia, Russian border guards say.

They are said to have told guards they were hoping to get to Spain, where one of them has a daughter living.

Cubans only need their passports to visit Russia for tourism but cannot enter the EU legally without a visa.

Tens of thousands of people have tried over the past 60 years to flee Communist Cuba but more usually leave the Caribbean island for the US, travelling by boat and ship, often at great personal risk.

The three people caught on the River Narva in Russia were placed in a holding centre for migrants near the city of St Petersburg, and given a fine and deportation order.

Border guards have given few details of the three, saying only that they are Cuban citizens born in 1968, 1970 and 1992.

They had planned their crossing after carefully studying the local terrain and getting the air beds, the guards said.

Bags containing personal belongings, toiletries and identity papers were found with them.

Cuba was a Spanish colony until 1898 and Spain has a long-established Cuban community.

Migrants have occasionally tried to cross the Narva from Russia before. In 2018, a man claiming to be an Egyptian was rescued from drowning by Estonian border guards in 2018 when he tried to swim over.

Moscow’s relations with Estonia, which was part of the USSR until 1991, have been strained for years, and Nato keeps combat forces in its small member state to deter any potential military action by Russia.

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