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The New Arab Staff

Russia 'significantly bolstered support' for Wagner Group in Libya

The report found that Russia had bolstered its logistic support to Wagner [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 September, 2020

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In January, Russian President Vladmir Putin said that Russians in Libya were neither paid for nor represented by his government.

A UN report seen by Reuters on Wednesday found evidence of a "significant" increase in direct Russian support for private military contractor Wagner Group in Libya, which backs eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar, in the nine months leading to 31 July.

The report identifies what is describes as 338 "suspicious" flights from Syria to Libya by Russian military aircraft between November 2019 and July 2020.

It also found that Russian military logistic support to ChVK Wagner and other private military companies based in Russia "significantly increased from January 2020 to June 2020."

The UN mission of Russia did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Reuters.  In January, Russian President Vladmir Putin said that Russians in Libya were neither paid for nor represented by his government. 

In a confidential May report, the same sanction monitors said that Wagner had up to 1,200 personnel deployed in Libya.

Libya was thrown in chaos following the NATO-backed overthrow of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Since 2014, it has been split, with an UN-backed government controlling the capital Tripoli and the northwest, with Haftar ruling in the east.

The UAE and Egypt have joined Russia on Haftar's side, while the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) is backed by Turkey.

Separately on Wednesday, Ankara said it doubted the longevity of a ceasefire announced by the GNA, after forces loyal to Haftar dismissed the move.

Read also: Libya ceasefire: Window of opportunity or doomed to fail?

Last month, the GNA under Prime Minister Fayez Al-Serraj declared a ceasefire and called for the lifting of a seven-month blockade on the country's oil facilities.

While his statements were echoed by Aguila Saleh, head of the rival east-based parliament, Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) claimed the calls were a marketing stunt, pointing to the mobilisation of rival forces around Sirte and Jufra, strategic areas for both sides.

Saleh has won influence from Haftar since the LNA retreat from Tripoli, when Turkey assisted the GNA in reversing the a 14-month long assault in June.

"We see there are points by Serraj and Saleh that are good points, like lifting the (oil) embargo, but there are some issues with the statements as well," Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay told an online panel, referring to differing calls for demilitarised zones in Sirte and Jufra.

"Saleh has tried to somehow reach an agreement and Haftar has already rejected it. If it goes through, we would love it, but unfortunately there are many doubts. Unfortunately, there are huge military accumulations by countries supporting Haftar," he added.

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