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Russia Denies Involvement As UN Slams Arms Shipments, Foreign Mercenaries In Libya

Russia backs strongman Khalifa Haftar in Libya.
Russia backs strongman Khalifa Haftar in Libya.

The top UN official for Libya says foreign backers of the war-wracked country's rival governments have ramped up weapons shipments in violation of an international arms embargo.

The interim UN envoy for Libya, Stephanie Williams, told the Security Council on September 2 that these shipments were exacerbating conflict and constitute "an alarming breach of Libya’s sovereignty, a blatant violation of the UN arms embargo."

Since UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last briefed the Security Council on July 8, around 70 resupply flights landed in eastern airports and three cargo ships unloaded weaponry at eastern ports in support of strongman Khalifa Haftar, Williams said.

She said another 30 such flights were sent to western Libya to help forces loyal to the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in the capital, Tripoli. Nine cargo ships also docked in western Libya.

The UN mission in Libya "continues to receive reports of large-scale presence of foreign mercenaries and operatives," she said.

Libya has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed popular uprising ousted and killed the country's longtime dictator, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, in 2011.

Russia has been helping Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) in the east of the country in its fight against the GNA.

France, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates also back Haftar's forces.

Turkey, which has deployed troops, drones, and Syrian rebel mercenaries to Libya, supports the government in Tripoli, alongside Qatar and Italy.

Russia's UN envoy, Vasily Nebenzya, rejected any Russian interference in Libya. "Not a single Russian serviceman is currently in Libya," he said.

The U.S. military has accused Moscow of supplying Russian mercenaries and military hardware to Libya in an attempt to gain a foothold in the North African country.

The Pentagon has said that Russia is using the Vagner Group, a private Russian paramilitary organization believed to be close to the Kremlin, as a "proxy” in Libya.

Addressing the Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft slammed the presence of Russian mercenaries linked to the Kremlin.

"There is no place for foreign mercenaries or proxy forces in Libya, including the Russian Ministry of Defense proxy Vagner Group, which is fighting alongside" Haftar, she said.

The Security Council is discussing a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN political mission in Libya. A vote is scheduled for September 14.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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