On June 18, 2020, in a statement, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) alleged Russia was using jets it had recently sent to Libya to support private military contractors working with HAFTAR’s self-styled Libyan National Army.
AFRICOM said it had photographic evidence of a MIG 29 operating near Sirte and another aircraft taking off from Jufra in central Libya.
On May 2020 Russia had flown at least 14 MiG-29s and several Su-24s to Libya via Syria, where its forces support President Bashar al-ASSAD.
At that time, a member of the defense committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament had dismissed the allegation as “fake” news.
Bradford GERING, AFRICOM’s director of operations said: “There is concern these Russian aircraft are being flown by inexperienced, non-state PMC (private military companies) mercenaries who will not adhere to international law; namely, they are not bound by the traditional laws of armed conflict”.
“Russia continues to push for a strategic foothold on NATO’s southern flank and this is at the expense of innocent Libyan lives,” he said.
AFRICOM announced last month that at least 14 MiG-29s and several Su-24s had deployed to Al Jufra Airfield, after stopping in Syria and were repainted to hide the Russian aircraft’s origins.
“So we are confident that these aircraft were not there, and were not older aircraft that had been maintained” Gen. Gregory HADFIELD, AFRICOM’s deputy director for intelligence, told reporters in May.
“If Russia secures a permanent position in Libya and, worse, deploys long-range missile systems, it will be a game-changer for Europe, NATO, and many Western nations”.
Sirte and Jufra are on the dividing line between areas in western Libya controlled by groups loyal to the GNA and eastern areas controlled by HAFTAR.
Russia continues to profit from violence and instability across the continent as the most important arms dealer in Africa. Russian government-backed PMCs, such as the Wagner Group, are active in sixteen countries across Africa. “Russia has relentlessly stuck to a narrative of implausible denials in the media,” said Col. Chris KARNS, director of AFRICOM public affairs. “It’s difficult to deny facts. Russian interference and masking of activity in Libya is visible and delaying progress. Progress the people of Libya deserve.”
This article was edited using the data from the Aljazeera.com, Armytimes.com, and Defpost.com.