Release of intelligence reports: Russian troops deployed to Al-Jufra line

According to reports, Russia has moved its military presence, which it has been conducting through Wagner since 2017, to a different ground by its sending of regular troops.

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In a written statement made by the Democracy and Human Rights Foundation (DHRF) on July 22, it was stated that a senior official working in the Libyan Ministry of Defense sent intelligence documents to the head of DHRF, Emaddin Muntasser, that Russian troops were deployed on the Al-Jufra line. It was announced that the intelligence reports included satellite photos and location information of Russian troops. It was also mentioned that a copy of the documents was sent to the US, the UK, the European Union (EU) and Libyan Government officials.

In the statement, it was expressed that the tension in the region would increase with this decision of Russia, and the settlement of Russian troops on the Al-Jufra line was evaluated as a threat to national security. Nonetheless, in the written statement, it was emphasized that Russia did not intend to leave the country, and, in this sense, Russian presence constituted an obstacle to the holding of the December 24 general elections in a free and impartial environment. Referring to some statements of Emaddin Muntasser, it was noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin used his veto power in the UN Security Council to gain a military base, and that Putin “prioritizes war, not peace”.

In this context, the failure of political negotiations such as the Berlin Conference and the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) gave the leader of the militia forces in the eastern part of Libya, Khalifa Haftar, and his Libyan National Army (LNA) the opportunity they sought for. In his press statements, Khalifa Haftar announced that if the elections do not take place on the previously determined date of December 24, they will start the invasion attempt against the capital Tripoli, and attempt to close the Algerian border. It can be said that Haftar’s rhetoric and actions that increased the tension caused the majority of the Government of National Unity (GNU), especially Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, to approach Turkish military units stationed in the country more positively within the scope of legitimate agreements. Because, as in the past, Turkey’s military presence can be interpreted as a deterrent force to the possible military operations of the Haftar wing. Likewise, Prime Minister Dbeibeh’s statements in Berlin and New York, emphasizing the perception of the threat posed by “mercenaries” within the country, nullified the pressure that the international community and Haftar’s supporters tried to establish on Turkey through “foreign powers.”

As it is known, the Second Berlin Conference, which took place on June 23, focused on foreign powers and mercenaries beyond many concrete issues, such as the defining of constitutional bases, budget discussions and candidate criterias. At the meetings, Russia denied any involvement with the Wagner mercenaries, which it has tacitly supported since 2017. It is known that Russian Wagner mercenaries are deployed especially in the eastern regions under the control of Khalifa Haftar and on the Sirte-Jufra line, which was determined as a natural border after the ceasefire agreement. In fact, since this latest move of Moscow, experts state that there has been a change in the military strategy the country has been following in Libya since 2017, as a result of the increasing pressure on Wagner in the country. In other words, it is believed that the Putin administration aimed to gain sympathy by removing Wagner from Libya in the first phase due to the current conjuncture, but brought regular troops into the country as a balancing power against Turkey’s legitimate military existence.

Two days before the reports were released in the media, it was announced that a so-called LNA delegation was sent to Russia by Khalifa Haftar under the leadership of General Khairy Al-Tamimi, member of the 5+5 Committee. Muntasser stated that his source was a senior official in the Libyan Ministry of Defense. As a matter of fact, this situation shows that some people in GNU are disturbed with Russia’s increasing engagement in Libya. At the same time, the US and EU countries, which are actively involved in the Libyan crisis as of 2021, may have been tried to be warned in this manner.

Fuat Emir Sefkatli

Fuat Emir Şefkatli received his undergraduate degree from Yeditepe University, having studied in the Department of Political Science and International Relations. He received his master's degree from the University of Plymouth, having studied in the Department of International Relations and Development. Fuat Emir's current research interests include soft power, China-Africa relations, and Red Sea and East African geopolitics. He is a North African Studies research assistant with an advanced command of English and an intermediate command of German.

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