The US military accused Russia on Friday of supplying more weapons, air defense systems and mercenaries to Libya”s front lines to shape the outcome of the escalating proxy war in the North African country.
The accusation comes as rival Libyan factions — backed by different foreign powers pouring weapons and fighters into the country — prepare to face off over the strategic coastal city of Sirte, which sits next to Libya”s oil-expert terminals and fields.
The US Africa Command, or AFRICOM, said verified photographic evidence reveals Russia”s increased military support to boost commander Khalifa Hifter, based in eastern Libya, against the U.N.-supported government based in the capital, Tripoli, in the west.
“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 US Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Bradford Gering, AFRICOM director of operations.
Earlier this week, Russian officials met with their Turkish counterparts in Turkey”s capital, Ankara, where the two emerging power brokers on opposite sides of Libya”s war agreed to push for a cease-fire.
Although it recognizes the UN-supported government, the US has mostly disengaged from the Libyan conflict and President Donald Trump once praised Hifter”s counterterrorism efforts.
But in recent months, the Pentagon has become increasingly outspoken about its alarm over Moscow”s growing influence in the oil-rich country.