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Russia, Wagner Group Continue Military Involvement in Libya

July 24, 2020

U.S. Africa Command has mounting evidence that Russia, through the Wagner Group, continues to position military equipment in Libya capable of conducting kinetic operations there. 

Overhead imagery shows Wagner forces and equipment on the front lines of the Libyan conflict in Sirte. Wagner, also known as the Wagner Group, is a Russian private military company.

"Russia continues to play an unhelpful role in Libya by delivering supplies and equipment to the Wagner group," said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Bradford Gering, Africom director of operations. "Imagery continues to unmask their consistent denials."

An aerial photo shows military equipment on the ground.
Wagner Equipment
The latest imagery details the extent of equipment being supplied to Wagner. Russian military cargo aircraft, including IL-76s, continue to supply Wagner fighters. Russian air defense equipment, including SA-22s, are present in Libya and operated by Russia, the Wagner Group or their proxies.
Photo By: Courtesy U.S. Africa Command
VIRIN: 200714-A-FC375-001

It is assessed that the Russian Federation continues to violate U.N. Security Council Resolution UNSCR 1970 by actively providing military equipment and fighters to the front lines of the conflict in Libya.

As Africom has documented in a series of media releases, the U.S. assesses that Russia supplied Wagner forces operating in Libya with fighter aircraft, military armored vehicles, air defense systems and supplies, further complicating the situation and increasing the risk for miscalculation, leading to continued and needless violence in Libya.

"Imagery reflects the broad scope of Russian involvement," said Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Hadfield, Africom deputy director of intelligence. "They continue to look to attempt to gain a foothold in Libya."

The latest imagery details the extent of equipment being supplied to Wagner. Russian military cargo aircraft, including IL-76s, continue to supply Wagner fighters. Russian air defense equipment, including SA-22s, are present in Libya and operated by Russia, the Wagner Group or their proxies. Photos also show Wagner utility trucks and Russian mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicles are also present in Libya.

"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," Gering said.

In May, U.S. Africa Command reported at least 14 Mig-29s and Su-24s had been flown from Russia to Syria, where their Russian markings were painted over to camouflage their origin. The aircraft were then flown into Libya, a violation of the U.N. arms embargo. U.S. Africa Command assesses that the warplanes are being actively flown in Libyan airspace.

An aerial photo shows military equipment on the ground.
Wagner Trucks
New imagery further proves Russia's involvement by showing Wagner utility trucks and Russian mine-resistant, ambush­-protected armored vehicles are present in Libya.
Photo By: Courtesy U.S. Africa Command
VIRIN: 200713-A-FC375-002

U.S. Africa Command previously provided photographic evidence that Wagner had laid land mines and improvised explosive devices in civilian areas in and around Tripoli without regard to the safety of civilians.

U.S. Africa Command has continued to document how Russia uses the Wagner Group as a proxy in Libya to establish a long-term presence on the Mediterranean Sea.

"Russian involvement is evident — which the Kremlin lies about every time they deny it," said Col. Chris Karns, Africom director of public affairs.

The U.S. supports a political solution in Libya and encourages all parties to adhere to the U.N. arms embargo.

(From a U.S. Africa Command news release)