In the last six weeks, about 200 Russian fighters, including experienced snipers, have arrived in Libya as part of a broad campaign by the Kremlin to reassert its influence across the Middle East and Africa, the New York Times reports.
According to Tripoli officials, Russia is now bringing in more mercenaries by the week.
“It is very clear that Russia is going all in on this conflict,” the NYT quotes Gen. Osama al-Juwaili, the top commander of the forces aligned with the Tripoli government.
The Russian snipers belong to the Wagner Group, the Kremlin-linked private company that also led Russia’s intervention in Syria, according to three senior Libyan officials and five Western diplomats closely tracking the war, the influential media outlet reports. The ‘Wagnerovites’ are allegedly fighting on the side of militia leader Khalifa Hifter.
Moreover, Russia introduced advanced Sukhoi jets, coordinated missile strikes, and precision-guided artillery to Libya.
In February 2019, the Russian TV channel Dozhd reported that the PMC Wagner might assist a Libyan National Army commander in the training of his military units. The grouping of Russian mercenaries led by Commander Dmitry Utkin is patronized by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, also known as ‘Putin’s Chef’.