Russia has deployed several “dozens” of special forces and officers of the Main Directorate General Staff (previously GRU) to eastern Libya, the British The Sun reported, citing unnamed sources on Downing Street. According to the newspaper, Russian specialists are engaged in training the army of Marshal Khalifa Haftar, to whom Moscow also supplies heavy weapons. In Libya, Russia has already created two military bases on the northeast coast of the country, in the cities of Tobruk and Benghazi. Both objects were deployed under the guise of a private military company (PMC) Wagner, says The Sun.
The presence of the Russian military in Libya RBC confirmed a source close to the Russian Defense Ministry. The Russian contingent in this country is represented, inter alia, by elite airborne units that were transferred to the eastern region from units to the Moscow region, he said, adding that the transfer had begun in recent months.
A source close to the Libyan authorities confirmed to RBC Russia's military activity in the region. RBC sources indicated that the national army led by Haftar is an ally of Russia in Libya.
Facts published in the British newspaper The Sun do not correspond to reality, Lev Dengov, head of the Russian contact group on an internal Libyan settlement, told RBC. “It’s not the first time that we are faced with a situation where they are trying to present the fact of Russia's interaction with one of the actors in Libya as a policy of supporting one side. Information that Russia supports one of the parties to the conflict does not correspond to reality, ”assured RBC Dengov. “Today, the leadership of our country has formed a state policy towards Libya, there are specific tasks related to the restoration of economic ties between Russia and Libya, the country's leadership has been tasked to interact with all parties to the Libyan conflict. In addition, Russia interacts with key international actors interested in resolving the conflict - with Italy, France, and the countries of the region, ”he recalled.
After the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, a single center of governance of the country did not appear in Libya. In the west, power is in the hands of the presidential council and the government of national consensus (PNS) in Tripoli, headed by Prime Minister Faiz Saraj. PNS was formed in the spring of 2016 on the basis of the Shiraq Agreement with the support of the UN Security Council.
The east and partly the south of the country is controlled by the Libyan House of Representatives elected in 2014, known as the “government in Tobruk”. He is supported by the national army of Libya, led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar. In February, he turned to Russia for military help.
In addition, in Libya, there are many popular (regional) militias. The south-west of the country and some localities in the south are controlled by national minorities, in particular the Tuaregs, the tuba and the zuvaya.
“Is the British media hoping that Russia will come and correct the confusion that the Western coalition created in Libya for seven years?” The Russian embassy in the UK on Twitter responded to The Sun.
RBC sent a request to the Ministry of Defense with a request to comment on information about Russia's military activity in Libya, as well as to the British Foreign Ministry and the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The UN embargo on the supply of arms and the deployment of military contingent in Libya is now in operation, Vasiliy Kuznetsov, head of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, reminded RBC. “Russia provided military assistance to Syria at the invitation of the official authorities, but the government in Tripoli is official in Libya, including Moscow,” the expert reminds. Reports of the sending of the Russian military contingent to a North African country, he said, are not true. In Libya, there are Italian and French PMCs that protect private business facilities, as well as mercenaries from African countries, particularly Sudan, Kuznetsov said.
What are the goals of Russia in Libya?
According to The Sun, Prime Minister Theresa May was notified of Russia's activity in Libya. If Moscow gains control over the northern coast of the country, it will be able to control the intensity of migration flows from Africa to Europe, a British official told the publication. “The fact is that we are extremely vulnerable to migration flows and fluctuations in the oil market, which depend on the situation in Libya,” a British newspaper source warned. And he stressed that by supporting Haftar, Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to make a “new Syria” out of a North African country.
The head of the committee of the House of Commons for Foreign Affairs, Tom Tugendhat, called Moscow’s activity “alarming”, but expected. “They [the Russians] will no doubt try to use control over migration routes in Africa [for their own political purposes],” said the parliamentarian quoted by The Sun. On the evening of October 8, a number of influential deputies called on May to take urgent measures to "counter the Russian threat" in Libya, writes The Sun. "We can not ignore it," - commented on the publication of The Sun, a British deputy and deputy chairman of the ruling Conservative Party, James Cleverley (quoted on his Twitter account).
Russian politicians found these concerns erroneous. According to the chairman of the international committee of the Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev, the United Kingdom and its NATO allies are responsible for the unfavorable situation in Libya. He described the motives attributed to Russia on his Facebook page as “delusional”.
The Russian presence in Libya is associated with oil and gas interests, said an interlocutor of RBC, close to the Ministry of Defense.
In Libya, Russia is primarily pursuing not political goals, but economic ones, says Dmitry Frolovsky, an independent expert on the Middle East. “I don’t think that today Moscow would place the military in Libya because of the desire to take control of migration flows in order to exert political pressure on the West,” he said in a conversation with RBC. He stressed that Russian economic interests in a North African country are much more obvious. “We are talking about the development of oil fields and the interests of Russian state corporations in the country, as well as the construction of the railway,” the expert said. If the news about the Russian military presence in Libya is true, then most likely the decision was made with the expectation of stabilizing the eastern part of the country to ensure security for commercial activity, the analyst added.
In July 2017, in Paris, Khalifa Haftar and the leaders of the opposing parties in Libya agreed on a "road map" for a peace settlement. Haftar and Saraj agreed on a cease-fire and promised to hold elections in the country “as soon as possible”. So far, it has not been possible to implement the “road map” of the Paris meeting.
On October 8, Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero-Milanese told about the intentions of the Italian authorities to hold a conference on Libyan settlement on November 12 in Palermo. The maximum number of participants interested in the implementation of the peace process should be involved in it. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been invited to the conference, the Italian minister said.