Russian military officials arrive in Libya following Haftar’s invitation

Following an invitation from pro-Moscow military figure Khalifa Haftar, Russian military officials, including Moscow’s deputy defense minister, arrived in Libya on Tuesday.

Haftar, a supporter of the eastern administration in the country, maintains a close relationship with Russia’s private Wagner mercenary group.

Wagner group is responsible for safeguarding both military and oil infrastructure within the divided nation.

Libya is divided between the United Nations-endorsed government led by Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah in Tripoli and an administration backed by Haftar in the eastern region.

A 2020 UN report indicated that as many as 1,200 Wagner fighters were supporting Haftar, who was then attempting to capture Tripoli. His offensive persisted for over a year but ultimately proved unsuccessful.

Experts say hundreds of Wagner fighters remain in the north African country.

The visit on Tuesday occurred concurrently with a renewed spotlight on Russian engagements in Africa after a video released on Monday by Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, in which he asserted that his group was contributing to greater freedom in Africa and indicated his presence on the continent.

“This is the first official visit of a Russian military delegation to Libya,” Moscow’s defence ministry said.

The visit, headed by Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov, was arranged subsequent to discussions held with Libya during the Army-2023 expo and the Moscow Conference on International Security earlier this month, according to the report.

“During the visit, it is planned to discuss prospects for cooperation in combating international terrorism and other issues of joint action,” Moscow’s defence ministry added.

As per a statement from Ahmad al-Mesmari, Haftar’s spokesperson, the Russian delegation engaged in discussions with high-ranking officers within Haftar’s armed forces.

During their interaction, the two parties deliberated on their collaboration and synchronization concerning activities such as training, as well as the upkeep of Russian weaponry and equipment, which forms the essential foundation of Haftar’s forces, the statement conveyed.

Wagner maintains a robust military presence in Africa, forging alliances with various nations, including Mali and the Central African Republic.

Prigozhin, previously aligned with the Kremlin and whose group defied Russia’s military leadership in June, has been scarce in public appearances since the mutiny occurred.

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