There are no Russian troops in Libya, said Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday, commenting on a statement by Turkish President Recep Erdogan that Moscow is providing mercenaries to Khalifa Haftar’s army, which is laying siege to Tripoli.
“Vladimir Putin, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces, has not sent troops to Libya, he has not given any orders in this regard,” Interfax cites Peskov as saying.
When asked to comment on the media reports on the death of a Russian soldier in Libya and his subsequent funeral in the Orenburg region, Peskov responded, “I don’t know about that. I can’t explain that to you.”
Erdogan said in December that Russia had been sending weapons to Libya, and had also sent mercenaries from the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC). On Sunday, February 16, he went further, accusing the Russian Defense Ministry of directly coordinating military action in the Libyan war.
In a broadcast of NTV, Erdogan spoke about a photograph of Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov and the leader of the Wagner PMC, with Khalifa Haftar, whose army has been blockading Libya’s oil ports, depriving the Libyan government of its only source of foreign currency income.
“They are all the highest-ranking military officials in Russia, and they are controlling Wagner. And yet they continue to say that they have no connection,” Erdogan remarked.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov responded that Erdogan’s statements do not reflect the true state of affairs in Libya: “I don’t know where he got this, where he got that information, such definitions.”
In December, Erdogan estimated that there were 2,000 Russian mercenaries in Libya.
At the end of October and the start of November, Moscow dispatched an additional contingent of 200 fighters to Libya, including highly qualified snipers, The New York Times reported, citing the Libyan Interior Ministry.
According to RBC news agency, at the end of last year, an elite paratrooper division was sent to Libya from the Moscow region, as well as special forces and officers from the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), with orders to train personnel for Haftar’s army.
In order to repair military vehicles and handle logistical problems, Russia has established a military base in western Egypt, whose president Abel Fattah el-Sisi has close ties with the Kremlin, western diplomats told NYT.