According to the African Command of the US Armed Forces, AFRICOM, Russia has deployed a military fighter aircraft to Libya.
The United States claims that the aircraft in question first flew to Syria, where it was repainted to hide its Russian origin, and that it was then sent on to Libya.
AFRICOM suspects that Russia deployed the aircraft to support mercenaries from the Russian private military company (PMC) “Wagner,” who are fighting on the side of Libyan National Army Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
"For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way,” said AFRICOM commander, General Stephen Townsend.
AFRICOM has published 15 photos of Russian aircrafts, including Mikoyan MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets, both in the air and on the ground in Libya. The Turkish publication Daily Sabah also reported that according to Libya’s interim government, there are Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircrafts in the country, as well.
In response, the First Deputy Head of the Federation Council’s committee for international affairs, Vladimir Dzhabarov, told Interfax that Russia has not deployed military personnel to Libya. He also added that the Federation Council has not received any such request.
According to Turkish data, there are approximately 1,400 mercenaries from the Wagner PMC fighting on behalf of Khalifa Haftar in Libya. UN reports say that Wagner group fighters began arriving in Libya in 2018, and there are now between 800 and 1,000 of these mercenaries in the country.
In January, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that if there are Russians fighting in Libya, then “they do not represent the interests of the Russian state.”