The Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha has unveiled links between two Russians arrested for spying in Tripoli earlier this year and Wagner Group whose mercenaries are fighting for Khalifa Haftar’s forces in southern Tripoli.
Bashagha told The Washington Post on Tuesday that the Russian nationals were arrested in last July on suspicion of attempting to influence planned municipal elections and gather information on the military operations against Khalifa Haftar’s forces, which are based in eastern Libya and backed by Russia, confirming that the Russians had confessed to the accusations.
The Washington Post reported a Western official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic issues, as saying that the Russian government was putting a lot of pressure on the Presidential Council’s government leadership to free the two men, who the officials said were part of a broader effort by Moscow to assert influence in Libya.
Russian Foreign Ministry admitted that the two nationals were arrested in Tripoli and said they were trying to prepare for a meeting with Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court.
Bloomberg said previously that the detained Russians had met twice in the months before their arrest with Saif Gaddafi with support from Russian officials, saying Saif is believed to be seeking a political comeback.
The Russians were arrested with some laptops and USBs that prove they were working for a company that works to influence elections in African countries, including Libya. A third Russian national managed to leave Libya before the Libyan security forces had stormed his house, Bloomberg said.
Bashagha accused Russia earlier of trying to help Gaddafi loyalists to return to the scene in Libya.