Russian mercenaries are reportedly on the ground in Libya — already in a crowded proxy battlefield given UAE and Turkish presence as well — supporting renegade general Khalifa Haftar and his longtime offensive to secure the capital of Tripoli against the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
Bloomberg reports of Haftar’s newly hired security contractors:
More than 100 mercenaries from the Wagner group headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, also known as “Putin’s chef” for his Kremlin catering contracts, arrived at a forward base in Libya in the first week of September to support eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar’s assault on the capital Tripoli, said the people, who included Libyan and Western officials. All asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak with the press.
Haftar’s Libyan National Army has denied that there are Russian or any other foreign fighters within its ranks, while Putin’s office also denied being aware of Russian mercenaries in Libya.
Currently the UAE is the biggest public backer of Haftar, supplying his forces with tons of weaponry and ammunition, some reported to include American weaponry. The UAE has also come under accusations it’s set up a mercenary pipeline of sorts, sending Sudanese militants to Libya to join LNA ranks.
On the other side, supporting the Tripoli-based GNA, Turkey has lately stepped up drone and aerial support against the advancing LNA, which over the summer resulted in Gen. Haftar ordering his fighters to attack any Turkish planes or vessels on site after what he slammed as a “Turkish invasion” of Libya.
“A Russian mercenary commander also confirmed that Wagner contractors were fighting in Libya, and said that some had been killed in action there,” Bloomberg continues, in what it described as a bolstering of LNA forces amid an escalation of LNA airstrikes on the capital.
Interestingly, Libya is among the few places in the Middle East/North Africa where Washington and Moscow currently find themselves on the same side, after Trump months ago came out in support of Haftar, who is also long rumored to be a CIA asset.
Wagner mercenaries have also been long reported to have a presence in Syria, where Moscow and the US have nearly entered full on the ground conflict at times over the past years.
Russia has withstood US regime change efforts in both Libya and Syria, with the former country now enduring the chaos unleashed by Muammar Gaddafi’s 2011 overthrow by US-NATO intervention.