Inspired by the military campaign in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to assist another ally, this time in Libya.
Russia has already begun to deploy special forces and GRU troops with orders to train personnel for Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, a Libyan military leader who opposes the government supported by the UN, US and EU.
Under the guise of the Wagner Private Military Company, Russia has established military bases in Tobruk and Benghazi on Libya’s north-east coast, and has probably already sent S-300 and Kalibr anti-air defense systems to the country, The Sun reports, citing sources in the British government.
Russia has also dispatched elite paratrooper divisions from the Moscow province, RBC reports, citing sources in the Russian Defense Ministry and sources close to the Libyan government.
The sources claim that the deployment of troops began in recent months, and is connected to Russia’s “oil interests” in the region.
According to Bloomberg, for more than two years, Russia has supported Haftar, who is opposed by armed militia in central and western Libya, where 70% of the country’s population lives.
In 2016, the field marshal visited Moscow twice, meeting with the Russian Defense Minister, Foreign Minister, and Security Council Secretary in order to secure their support.
After the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, which Putin referred to as a “crusade”, Russia lost military contracts to the value of $4 billion. Friendship with Haftar may bring these deals back to life, but also carries the risk of conflict escalation in the country already torn by civil war.
The UN accuses both Haftar’s supporters and the rival armed groups of human rights violations, torture, and extrajudicial executions.
In addition to Russia, Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, whose president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has close ties to the Kremlin.
By taking possession of Libya’s north coast, Moscow will gain control over the flow of migrants from Africa to the EU and over oil shipments, a high-ranking British official fears.
“The fact is, we are extremely vulnerable to migrant flows and to oil shocks, which depend on the situation in Libya,” he said.