Israel has joined the US propaganda campaign over the alleged ‘Russian invasion’ of Libya. On May 27, Israel’s Imagesat Intl. released satellite images speculating on the alleged deployment of Russian combat aircraft in Libya.
Reports of repainted Russian fighter jets being sent to bomb Libya have nothing to do with reality, Moscow said in response to the latest sensational claims by US Africa Command about alleged Russian involvement in the region.
The AFRICOM press release claimed that they “assessed” the planes were recently deployed to Libya in support of Wagner Group private military contractors, and are “likely” to provide close air support. Likewise, “it is assessed” that the planes came from Russia via Syria, where they were “repainted to camouflage their Russian origin.” The press release also claims that:
“Russia is clearly trying to tip the scales in its favor in Libya. Just like I saw them doing in Syria, they are expanding their military footprint in Africa using government-supported mercenary groups like Wagner,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command. “For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way. Neither the LNA nor private military companies can arm, operate and sustain these fighters without state support — support they are getting from Russia.”
Russia has employed state-sponsored Wagner in Libya to conceal its direct role and to afford Moscow plausible deniability of its malign actions. U.S. Africa Command assesses Moscow’s military actions have prolonged the Libyan conflict and exacerbated casualties and human suffering on both sides.
The world heard Mr. Haftar declare he was about to unleash a new air campaign. That will be Russian mercenary pilots flying Russian-supplied aircraft to bomb Libyans,” Townsend said…” (LINK)
Fathi Bashagha, a minister in the Tripoli-based government of national accord (GNA) – which is fighting the LNA for control of Libya – claimed last week in an interview with Bloomberg that “at least six MiG 29s and two Sukhoi Su-24s” arrived in Libya from the Khmeimim air base in Syria, where the Russian expeditionary force is based.
The US insistence that Russia is destabilizing Libya is baffling, noting that it was the NATO regime-change operation in 2011 that overthrew the government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and turned the most prosperous African country into a chaotic wasteland fought over by warlords ever since. Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who leads the LNA and is allegedly propped up by Wagner and Russia, famously defected to the US in the 1980s and lived near the CIA headquarters for decades before returning to Libya after 2011.
Russia and Turkey – a NATO member which has openly backed the GNA and sent regular troops to Tripoli earlier this year – organized a series of negotiations between Haftar and the Tripoli government earlier this year, but the GNA refused to meet with the LNA leader directly.
The US claims were picked up by major media outlets in the region, including Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post and Al Jazeera. In addition to repeating the latest US claims, the report by Haaretz also made reference to a ‘confidential UN report’ to which a Reuters correspondent had access:
“Russian private military contractor Wagner Group has up to 1,200 people deployed in Libya, strengthening Libya National Army (LNA) of eastern Libyan military leader Khalifa Haftar’s forces, according to a confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters in early May.”
The article also noted that the GNA has deployed Syrian fighters allied to Turkey, while Haftar is also using fighters recruited from Sudan. On 18 May United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said at an online UN Security Council meeting that militants from Syria are sent to Libya to fight on both sides of the conflict:
“Let us also remember that Syria’s instability reverberates elsewhere too — including as far as Libya, given reports of fighters being recruited in Syria in large numbers and sent to fight on both sides of that conflict.”
Russia has denied the allegations, and claimed that the military contractors in Libya are there on behalf of private sector interests to protect their property and employees and are not contracted or supported by the government.
Al Jazeera noted that Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Lavrov conveyed a message to Aguila Saleh Issa, speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives who is an ally of Haftar, that he wanted an immediate ceasefire and political negotiations in Libya. It then declared that analysts questioned the motive behind the Russian call for a truce and negotiations, to the effect that with Haftar retreating following the recent military victories by the western-backed government, it is advantageous for Russia to call for talks. This interpretation, however, ignores similar calls made by Lavrov almost a month ago, before Haftar’s forces suffered their setbacks, as quoted in a report by TASS:
“Lavrov pointed to the statement, made by Aguila Saleh, the president of the Libyan House of Representatives, in which the politician called for national dialogue, aimed at creation of power entities, accepted by everyone, which would equally represent the three key regions of Libya (Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan).
“I think, this is exactly what we were talking about all these years — that the Libyans themselves must find mutually acceptable approaches to building a dialogue, and then to building their state, whereas foreign actors should encourage these exact approaches,” Lavrov commented.
The Russian foreign minister also recalled that the position of the UN special envoy for Libya has been vacant for two months already. “I believe that it is absolutely necessary for the UN Secretary-General Mr. [Antonio] Guterres to appoint the new special envoy as soon as possible. By common agreement, this must be a representative of the African region, and there are such candidates, we know them well, they are experienced people who enjoy credibility,” he noted.” (LINK)
The US claims were subsequently repeated by Chief Pentagon Spokesperson for the Department of Defense Jonathan Hoffman, who told reporters at least 14 Russian-made military planes could be in Libya.
“With regard to the number and types of aircraft … it was approximately 14 military fighters, a mix of Su-24s and MiG-29s. Right now, that’s all the information on that that I can share with you,” he said, answering to a question about the number of Russian-made aircraft that could possibly be in Libya.
He added that the US urges all parties to the Libyan conflict to stop military actions in the region and give the Libyan people “the defense and security they deserve.”
Earlier, the United States claimed that Russia assisted in redeploying militants from Syria to Libya. Russia has repeatedly rejected those claims. Earlier, Kremlin dismissed US claims of Russia’s military interference into the Libyan civil conflict as false. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also rejected claims that ‘mercenaries’ linked to Russia were fighting in Libya.