Politics

Britain, US denounce Russia's role in Libya conflict

By AFP

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This photo taken May 5th in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, currently controlled by forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, shows pro-Haftar military police soldiers standing guard outside a vehicle carrying prisoners captured by Haftar's forces. [Abdullah Doma/AFP]

Britain and the US on Tuesday (May 19th) urged Russia to stop sending mercenaries to the conflict in Libya, after a recent UN report confirmed the presence of Russian and Syrian fighters in the country.

Russia dismissed the demands at a Security Council videoconference, denying again that Moscow has any role in the presence of Russian fighters in Libya.

"We remain particularly concerned by further reports that external parties continue to provide materiel, equipment, mercenaries," said British ambassador Jonathan Allen.

He pointed in particular to a private Russian security group, the Wagner Group, which is seen as being close to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

"Wagner Group activities continue to exacerbate the conflict and prolong the suffering of the Libyan people," Allen said.

He also invoked the UN arms embargo on Libya that has been in place since 2011, adding: "I want to urge all Security Council members to abide by the resolutions of this Council which they themselves have voted for."

"All actors involved in the conflict in Libya must immediately suspend military operations," said US ambassador Kelly Craft.

"They must halt the ongoing transfer of foreign military equipment and personnel to Libya, including as the UK mentioned, Wagner Group mercenaries," she continued.

Report confirms Russian mercenaries are in Libya

Russian ambassador Vasily Nebenzia dismissed the claims as "speculation", saying the report was "aimed at discrediting Russia's policy in Libya". He asserted that "there are no Russian servicemen in Libya".

The confidential UN report comes from UN experts monitoring the arms embargo.

It confirms mercenaries from the Wagner Group are in Libya, and reveals the presence of Syrian fighters from Damascus supporting Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar, who controls swaths of eastern Libya, launched an offensive in April last year against the capital Tripoli, seat of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

The document also confirms that Syrian opposition elements are fighting in Libya in support of the GNA, backed by Turkey since late 2019.

Acting UN envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams previously told the council the UN continues to "witness an alarming military build-up as a result of the uninterrupted dispatch by the foreign backers of increasingly sophisticated and lethal weapons, not to mention the recruitment of more mercenaries to both sides of the conflict".

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