East Libya warlord Khalifa Haftar visits Russia

Libya’s eastern warlord, Khalifa Haftar, embarked on a trip to Russia on Tuesday for discussions concerning the situation in the conflict- and flood-affected North African nation, as reported by his self-declared army.

Upon his arrival in Moscow, Haftar was greeted by Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, a former leader of the Muslim-majority Russian republic of Ingushetia, according to the Libyan Arab Armed Forces.

“The development of the situation in Libya, bilateral relations and ways of developing them, and issues of common interest” were on the agenda for Haftar’s visit, the LAAF said on its Facebook page.

Yevkurov has made multiple visits to eastern Libya to engage with Haftar.

Their most recent meeting occurred on September 17 at the headquarters of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) in Benghazi, shortly after devastating floods resulted in numerous casualties and disappearances in eastern Libya.

In recent years, Russia has bolstered its presence in Africa, with a commitment to enhancing grain exports, supplying weapons, and fostering energy cooperation in the region.

It has stepped up these efforts since being isolated on the international stage following its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Libya is divided between the United Nations-backed government led by Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah in Tripoli and the administration supported by Haftar, which is headquartered in the east.

Moscow has upheld strong ties with Haftar, who employed mercenaries from the Russian paramilitary organization known as the Wagner Group in his unsuccessful campaigns to capture Tripoli from April 2019 to June 2020.

According to a 2020 UN report, as many as 1,200 Wagner fighters were supporting Haftar at that time. Experts believe that hundreds of them are still present in the North African nation.

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