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Haftar visits Moscow amid flood aftermath

Libyan militia leader Khalifa Haftar arrived in Moscow on Tuesday, amid the chaos caused by Storm Daniel, which claimed thousands of lives in areas under the warlord’s control.

Discussions are expected to focus on Libyan developments and strengthening bilateral ties following a recent visit to Benghazi, the de-facto capital of Haftar-controlled territories, by Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yunus Bek Yevkurov.

Haftar’s office said the visit is in response to an invitation from Moscow with Yevkurov holding an official reception for the former Libyan army general upon his arrival.

Haftar has received strong support from Russia and is seen as a key actor in Moscow’s regional policy.

He has faced huge criticism from Libyans for his alleged mishandling of the floods in Derna which killed thousands.

He was seen on board Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier off Benghazi’s coast in 2017 and has made two visits to Moscow meeting high-level officials including Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Though Russia insists it is neutral on the war in Libya, it has provided direct military support to Haftar through the Wagner mercenary group. This group has a significant military presence in Libya, Syria, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Following the Wagner alleged revolt against the Russian leadership, sparking questions about the mercenary group’s future, The Guardian reported that Moscow assured Haftar that over 2,000 Wagner fighters would remain in Libya.

Haftar moved to the US in 1990 and was branded a traitor by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. He returned to Libya after Gaddafi was killed in 2011 and has built up a powerful militia backing the eastern government.

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