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Libyan Official Says Opposition Sought Russian Military Aid, Training

Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar visited Moscow last November.
Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar visited Moscow last November.

Libya's opposition government in the east, which opposes the UN-backed leadership in Tripoli, has requested military aid from Russia and received promises of support, a key official said.

"Most of our officers trained in Russia, and many can speak Russian and know how to use Russian equipment," Aguila Saleh, speaker of the opposition government's parliament in the eastern city of Tobruk, told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti on March 14.

"We were promised assistance in the fight against terrorism," Saleh said, vowing that his government's army, led by anti-Islamist military strongman Khalifa Haftar, would take over oil fields and ports currently controlled by the Tripoli leadership.

Haftar traveled twice to Moscow last year, spoke with Russia's defense minister, and boarded a Russian aircraft carrier off Libya's coast.

Saleh said that about 70 soldiers from Haftar's forces were sent to Russia last month for medical treatment.

Saleh's statements came after Russia's Defense Ministry denied reports that it had sent troops to the Egyptian town of Sidi Barrani, near Libya's eastern border, as part of an alleged effort to support the opposition government.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa