US publishes evidence of Russia’s military build-up in Libya for warlord Haftar

Russian military equipment. [Photo: USAFRICOM]
The US has again accused Russia of sending weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, to Libya and sending Russian mercenaries to operate on the front lines of the conflict there for warlord Khalifa Haftar.

“It is assessed that the Russian Federation continues to violate UN Security Council Resolution UNSCR 1970 by actively providing military equipment and fighters to the front lines of the conflict in Libya,” US Africa Command, which oversees US military operations on the continent, said in a statement on Friday.

US officials have long accused Moscow of using the Russian mercenary outfit known as the Wagner Group to fight in the Libyan conflict as part of an effort to extend Russia’s influence in the oil-rich North African country while also establishing a presence on NATO’s southern flank.

Russia uses Wagner Group as a proxy in Libya to establish a long-term presence on the Mediterranean Sea,” Africa Command said.

“They continue to look to attempt to gain a foothold in Libya,” Brig. Gen. Gregory Hadfield, the command’s deputy director of intelligence, said in the statement.

Africa Command has previously released evidence of what it says is Russia’s presence in Libya, accusing Moscow of sending warplanes to bolster Haftar’s forces and of deploying mines in an effort to slow the advance of the Government of National Accord, which has pushed Haftar’s forces back toward their eastern strongholds.

Africa Command also released imagery Friday purporting to show Russian military equipment being operated by Wagner Group mercenaries, including Russian armored vehicles positioned near where the heaviest fighting between Tripoli and Haftar’s forces is taking place.

“US Africa Command has mounting evidence that Russia, through the Wagner Group, continues to position military equipment in Libya capable of conducting kinetic operations there. Overhead imagery shows Wagner forces and equipment on the front lines of the Libyan conflict in Sirte,” the statement said.

“The type and volume of equipment demonstrates an intent toward sustained offensive combat action capabilities, not humanitarian relief, and indicates the Russian Ministry of Defense is supporting these operations,” Maj. Gen. Bradford Gering, the Africa Command director of operations, said in a statement

The imagery released by Africa Command purports to show Russian military cargo aircraft, including IL-76s, supplying Wagner fighters as well as Russian air defense equipment, including SA-22 missile systems at a Libyan air base under the control of the forces of Haftar.

Africa Command also provided an image showing that they said was “Wagner utility trucks and Russian mine-resistant, ambush protected armored vehicles” operating near Sirte, Libya close to the front lines of the conflict between Haftar’s forces and the forces of the Libyan Government of National Accord.

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