Russia recently deployed fighter aircraft to Libya to support Russian state-sponsored private military contractors, U.S. officials have announced.
The Russian fighter aircraft arrived in Libya from an airbase in Russia after transiting Syria, where U.S. officials assessed that they were repainted to hide their origins.
“The Russian fighter aircraft arrived in Libya from an air base in Russia after transiting Syria, where Africom officials assess they were repainted to camouflage their Russian origin.”
Russia now reportedly has at least 14 combat aircraft in Libya, suggesting a major intervention in the country.
“Russian military aircraft are likely to provide close air support and offensive fires for the Wagner Group PMC, which is supporting the Libyan National Army’s fight against the internationally recognized government of national accord, Africom officials said in a news release. The Russian fighter aircraft arrived in Libya from an air base in Russia after transiting Syria, where Africom officials assess they were repainted to camouflage their Russian origin.”
U.S. officials say that Russia has employed state-sponsored Wagner in Libya to conceal its direct role and to afford Moscow plausible deniability.
“Russia is clearly trying to tip the scales in its favor in Libya. Just like I saw them doing in Syria, they are expanding their military footprint in Africa using government-supported mercenary groups like Wagner,” said Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, Africom’s commander.
“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. Neither the LNA nor private military companies can arm, operate and sustain these fighters without state support — support they are getting from Russia.”
“If Russia seizes basing on Libya’s coast, the next logical step is they deploy permanent long-range anti-access area-denial capabilities,” said Air Force Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa.