Russian President Vladimir Putin personally commented on the participation of Russian mercenaries in hostilities in Libya. While answering a question at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following their talks in Moscow, Putin stated that if there are Russians in Libya, they “do not represent the interests of the Russian state” nor do they receive money from him.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan earlier said that Russian mercenaries from private military company Wagner, which is supposedly funded by Putin’s chef Yevgeny Prigozhin, fight on the side of the Libyan National Army Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. It is worthy of note that Turkey’s Erdogan signed a military cooperation agreement with the internationally recognized Government of National Accord chaired by Fayez Sarraj, which Khaftar opposes.
Erdogan said that Russia had sent PMC Wagner to Libya, therefore, he concluded, Turkey could also send its units to the African country to support the Government of National Accord. Erdogan said in late 2019 that there were about 2,000 PMC fighters in Libya.
Putin’s official spokesman Dmitry Peskov, commenting on Erdogan’s statements, said that Libya had become a haven for mercenaries and terrorists from a large number of countries after the killing of Muammar Gaddafi. He also noted that “citizens of different countries work as mercenaries in different parts of the planet,” and their movement cannot be controlled.
US officials also expressed their concerns about the growing number of Russian mercenaries in Libya. An unnamed official from US State Department said that such state of affairs was changing and exacerbating the general course of the conflict, although it was not changing the balance of power in Haftar’s favor.