The United States military has said Russia appears to be sending more military equipment to its mercenaries in Libya, including in the flashpoint city of Sirte, in breach of an arms embargo, Al Jazeera reports.
The US military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) said on Friday there was mounting evidence from satellite photos of Moscow’s military cargo planes, including IL-6s, bringing supplies to fighters from Russian private military contractor Wagner Group.
“Russia continues to play an unhelpful role in Libya by delivering supplies and equipment to the Wagner group,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Bradford Gering, AFRICOM director of operations. “Imagery continues to unmask their consistent denials.”
It is assessed that the Russian Federation continues to violate UN Security Council Resolution UNSCR 1970 by actively providing military equipment and fighters to the front lines of the Libya conflict.
As AFRICOM has documented in a series of media releases, the U.S. assesses that Russia supplied Wagner forces operating in Libya with fighter aircraft, military armored vehicles, air defense systems, and supplies, further complicating the situation and increasing the risk for miscalculation leading to continued and needless violence in Libya.
“Imagery reflects the broad scope of Russian involvement,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Hadfield, AFRICOM deputy director of intelligence. “They continue to look to attempt to gain a foothold in Libya.”
The latest imagery details the extent of equipment being supplied to Wagner. Russian military cargo aircraft, including IL-76s, continue to supply Wagner fighters. Russian air defense equipment, including SA-22s, are present in Libya and operated by Russia, the Wagner Group or their proxies. Photos also show Wagner utility trucks and Russian mine-resistant, ambushprotected armored vehicles are also present in Libya.
“The type and volume of equipment demonstrates an intent toward sustained offensive combat action capabilities, not humanitarian relief, and indicates the Russian Ministry of Defense is supporting these operations,” said Gering.
In May, U.S. Africa Command reported at least 14 Mig-29s and Su-24s had been flown from Russia to Syria, where their Russian markings were painted over to camouflage their origin. The aircraft were then flown into Libya, a violation of the UN arms embargo. U.S. Africa Command assesses that the warplanes are being actively flown in Libyan airspace.
U.S. Africa Command previously provided photographic evidence that Wagner has laid landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in civilian areas in and around Tripoli without regard to safety of civilians.
U.S. Africa Command has continued to document how Russia uses Wagner Group as a proxy in Libya to establish a long-term presence on the Mediterranean Sea.
“Russian involvement is evident–which the Kremlin lies about every time they deny it,” said Col. Chris Karns, AFRICOM director of public affairs.
The U.S. supports a political solution in Libya and encourages all parties to adhere to the UN arms embargo.