A senior Foreign Ministry official has denied Russia’s military presence in Libya following a New York Times report that about 200 Russian mercenaries have arrived in the oil-rich North African country in the past month and a half.
The Kremlin-linked Wagner mercenaries’ reported arrival in Libya appears to be the second wave in as many months of Russian arrivals in the country, which is gripped by a five-year civil war. Bloomberg reported in September that more than 100 Wagner contractors arrived at a forward base to support eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar’s assault on the Libyan capital Tripoli.
“I categorically reject speculation of this kind,” the state-run TASS news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying Thursday. “We don’t believe there are grounds to make assertions and speculations like this.”
Russia’s deployment includes snipers equipped with signature ammunition that doesn’t have exit wounds, The New York Times reportedTuesday, citing three unnamed senior Libyan officials and five Western diplomats.
The newspaper also reported that Russia has “introduced” cutting-edge Sukhoi fighter jets, coordinated missile strikes and precision-guided artillery to the Libyan fighting.
Ryabkov, hinting at The New York Times reporting, responded that “this isn’t the first time that American media spread all sorts of tall tales, malicious rumors and fabrications.”
“We’re acting in the interest of Libyan [conflict] settlement. We support the appropriate efforts [to achieve this], including through the UN. We’re in dialogue with those who in one way or another influence the situation,” he added.