Bloomberg reported on Sunday that Khalifa Haftar is looking for air-defense systems to protect him against rival forces in Tripoli, according to people close to his self-styled Libyan National Army.
The newspaper added that a defense accord is being hammered out between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Haftar following their first-ever meeting in Moscow in late September.
Bloomberg indicated that Haftar also wanted training for his air force pilots and special forces, and in return, a handful of air bases currently occupied by Wagner paramilitaries would be upgraded to host Russian forces.
This Russian threat is being taken “very seriously” by the US administration, said Jonathan Winer, a former US special envoy to Libya. He added that keeping Russia out of the Mediterranean had been a key strategic objective, reiterating that if Russia got ports in Libya, that would give it the ability to spy on all of the European Union.
According to Bloomberg, Russian warships may also get permanent docking rights at a Libyan port, most likely Tobruk, located just a few hundred kilometers across the Mediterranean from Greece and Italy, according to other people with knowledge of the talks.
“However, that is a longer-term prospect because it will require substantial upgrading of port facilities, they said. Russia so far has only one naval base in the Mediterranean, at Syria’s Tartus.” The newspaper explained.
Haftar’s deepening ties with Moscow have raised concern in Washington and prompted a series of high-level visits to the country this year in a bid to persuade him to change course.
Italian Nova news agency revealed a few days ago, citing Libyan security sources, that Wagner mercenaries stationed at the Brak al-Shati base feared a possible advance by the forces of the Government of National Unity, saying Wagner Group began an intensive aerial reconnaissance in the area extending between the city of Al-Shuwerf and about 260 kilometers south of Gharyan, and the Brak Al-Shati base.
Nova said that late last month, Wagner transferred part of its forces and military and logistical equipment from Al-Jufra base in central Libya to the southwest. It indicated that this may be related to the recent military developments in the city of Gharyan, which witnessed violent clashes October 30 after forces affiliated with Adel Daab, loyal to Haftar, launched an attack against government forces in order to control the city.