The United States military claims Russia is continuing to send military equipment to Haftar supporters in Libya, despite recent efforts by Turkish and Russian delegations to maintain a ceasefire in the region. On Friday 24th July, AFRICOM (The US military’s Africa Command) announced there was increasing evidence from satellite photos of Russian military planes bringing supplies to fighters. It is believed that these supplies have come from private military contractor Wagner Group, who have been supplying the region for the majority of this year.
Gregory Hadfield, US Army Brigadier General and AFRICOM deputy director of intelligence said the “imagery reflects the broad scope of Russian involvement.” On the military command’s website, he made the following statement:
“Russian air defence equipment, including SA-22s, are present in Libya and operated by Russia, the Wagner Group or their proxies. Photos also show Wagner utility trucks and Russian mine-resistant, ambush protected armoured vehicles are also present in Libya… the type and volume of equipment demonstrate an intent toward sustained offensive combat action capabilities.”
At the time of writing, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not responded to the allegations. He did, however, in January, say if there were Russians in Libya, they were not representing the Russian state nor were they being paid by them.
Since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that resulted in the assassination of leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya faces division. With an internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) controlling the northwest and capital, Tripoli, the east has been in the control of military commander Khalifa Haftar and the Libyan National Army (LNA). Over the past nine years, various countries have backed both sides, both politically and by providing weapons. The GNA is supported by the US and Turkey, while Haftar and the LNA is supported by the UAE, Egypt, and various others. Countries such as France and Russia publicly support the UN’s mediation efforts, but have multiple ties, particularly in supplying weapons, to the LNA and Haftar, with Russia’s military presence increasing greatly over the past year.
The AFRICOM claims come after a meeting held on Wednesday 22nd July between Turkish and Russian delegations in Ankara to discuss Libya’s war. Both sides agreed to continue with efforts for a lasting ceasefire, according to Turkey’s foreign ministry. A joint statement released after the meeting said the parties had agreed to work together and encourage Libya’s opposing factions to create “conditions for a lasting and sustainable ceasefire.” There is a large discrepancy between public political dialogue and private weapon supply, as Russian forces seem to contradict their public desire for peace.
With both Russian and foreign forces attempting to gain more of a foothold in Libya, it is unclear when the violence will stop. With Hafar’s forces continuing to be strengthened, the nine years of chaos that has consumed Libya do not seem to be coming to end anytime soon.