The Daily Telegraph

Russian ties to Libyan warlord ‘undeniable’, says US general

- By Roland Oliphant

RUSSIA has deployed troops to Egypt amid a strengthen­ing of ties between Moscow and General Khalifa Haftar, the warlord who controls much of the eastern part of Libya, a US general said yesterday.

Marine Gen Thomas Waldhauser, the commander of US Africa Command, said the link between Russia and General Haftar, the head of a group called the Libyan National Army, was “undeniable”.

“There are Russians on the ground in the area,” Gen Waldhauser told reporters in a meeting at the Pentagon. US Africacom clarified on Twitter: “We are aware of Russian military in the north Africa region, specifical­ly Egypt.”

Gen Waldhauser’s comments follow reports earlier this month that Russian special forces had been deployed to western Egypt, possibly in order to conduct operations in Libya.

Last year a spokesman for Gen Haftar told Egyptian newspapers that Russian military technician­s were helping service and restore heavy weaponry including anti-aircraft and naval systems. Gen Haftar visited Moscow at least twice last year to lobby for support and was hosted on board the Admiral Kuzentsov, Russia’s only aircraft carrier, as it returned from a mission off Syria in January.

At a meeting with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, in November he called the relationsh­ip with Russia “crucial”. However, Russia has publicly ruled out sending weaponry to the general as long as a UN arms embargo remains in force.

Gen Haftar’s forces control large swathes of eastern Libya, including the key cities of Bengazi and Tobruk, but they do not acknowledg­e the UN recognized Government of National Accord based in Tripoli.

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