Italian authorities have seized a cargo of weapons worth several million dollars from the MSC Arina, a large merchant ship destined for eastern Libya, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reports.

The ship, which departed from Yantian, a port district in Shenzhen, China, on April 30, was intercepted and searched while docked in Gioia Tauro, Calabria, on Tuesday.

Multiple international agencies collaborated on the intelligence leading to the confiscation of the weapons. According to Italian officials, the arms were intended for the Haftar family, prominent figures in the ongoing Libyan conflict.

The recent event underscores the growing geopolitical rivalry between the United States and Russia. Washington has been closely monitoring Haftar since his visit to Moscow in September.

The US is keen to prevent Russian expansion in the Mediterranean, especially in Libya, which has strategic importance due to its proximity to Europe and its resources. Russia’s potential establishment of a military base in Tobruk would significantly enhance its influence in North Africa and the Mediterranean.

A Russian military presence in Libya would also be a direct security concern for the EU, particularly given its proximity to the EU’s southern borders. This would not only disrupt the balance of power in the region but could also affect EU interests, including migration routes and energy supplies.

At another level, the seizure of the weapons shipment is a blow to Khalifa Haftar’s military capabilities, as the rogue military commander relies on external support to maintain his power, mainly from Russia. By limiting Haftar’s access to sophisticated weaponry, other factions within Libya might gain relative strength, potentially altering the dynamics of the conflict.

The involvement of commercial shipping lines in illegal arms transport is also a cause of concern. When asked about the circumstances, MSC stated that it had no records of any container seizures.

The route taken by the MSC Arina, avoiding the Red Sea and Suez Canal, suggests a deliberate effort to evade detection. However, it was only upon reaching the Calabrian port that US authorities decided to seize the weapons cargo, requesting Italian allies to intervene.

The exact type of military equipment on the ship remains unclear, though some analysts suspect drones. Khaled and Saddam, sons of Haftar, have been receiving increasing amounts of war supplies from Russia via the Syrian port of Tartus for months, according to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.