Hundreds of mercenaries from the Russian private contractor group, Wagner, have been operating in Libya according to a leaked UN document.
Reportedly, about 1,200 soldiers have been carrying out specialised military tasks under the command of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar. According to the 57-page report, submitted to the UN Security Council Libya sanctions committee by independent sanctions monitors, Wagner has been deploying the mercenaries to carry out various operations against the Tripoli-based government.
Since 2014, the Libyan state has been divided into areas controlled by either side.
Wagner is thought to have been involved in the conflicts that have gripped Ukraine and Syria, amongst others. Most recently, the group has been reported to be helping Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, in the brutal fighting of the Syrian Civil War. The Russian government has denied any state involvement in the militant group.
The report claims the mercenaries have been in Libya since October 2018, carrying out various activities, including “deploying as sniper teams”. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced earlier this year that any Russian nations present in Libya do not represent Moscow, nor are they being paid by the state.
Since the so-called “Arab Spring” which led to the outbreak of the Libyan Civil War in 2011, the state has been in turmoil. Longstanding leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was ousted by rebellious forces during the uprising and since then, groups have been in conflict for control of the Middle-Eastern country. There is an internationally recognised Government of National Accord based in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. This is supported by Qatar and Turkey with pro-Turkish Syrians also fighting for the GNA. In opposition is the Libyan National Army, loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, who are backed by Russia, Egypt and the UAE.
Wagner is shrouded in mystery and secrecy. It is reported that the founder, Dmitry Utkin, is a previous member of Russian military intelligence brigade, the GRU. Wagner was reportedly his call-sign due to an admiration for the Nazi regime. It is unknown as to how the group is funded or led, but many have linked the group to the GRU and Putin’s close circles. Each accusation has been denied.