GNA officials have been gathering evidence of Russian mercenaries and plan to confront Moscow over this. Libyan and American official have accused Russia of deploying mercenaries, especially from the Wagner Group, to key battleground areas in recent months. The GNA claims it has collected evidence of between 600-800 Russian fighters, is collecting names and intends to present this to the Russian government. Moscow denies it has a role in the presence of the mercenaries.
The Tripoli government reportedly has evidence, including mobile phones it has found, intercepted communications and personal belongings left behind in battle zones. There is also flight data showing Russian-named individuals moving from Syria to Egypt and Amman before reaching Benghazi, Haftar’s stronghold.
A senior State Department official for Near East Affairs, told reporters that the US was working with EU partners to impose sanctions on the Russian military contractors for their role in the Libyan conflict, pointing to their connection to civilian casualties. The official’s comments came shortly after US officials me with Haftar recently to press for a ceasefire, and express concern over Russia’s increasing involvement in the conflict.
Some analysts think Russia has managed to make itself appear bigger and more powerful in this conflict than it really is. “Most of this is smoke and mirrors…Russian influence has done only two things: inflate their size and spectre of their power in Libya. They’re not positively engaged or trying to play a constructive role with diplomatic or political value,” said one Tripoli based analyst. Other analysts think Russia is interested only in continued conflict, as it allows Russia to continue building influence on the flanks of Europe and keep the West divided over Libya, migration, and other matters.