East Libya strongman is visiting Russia, his forces say
September 26, 2023 10:55 PM
Libya's eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar travelled to Russia on Tuesday for talks on the situation in the war- and flood-ravaged North African country, his self-styled army said.
Upon his arrival in Moscow, Haftar was received by Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, a former leader of the Muslim-majority Russian republic of Ingushetia, his Libyan Arab Armed Forces said.
"The development of the situation in Libya, bilateral relations and ways of developing them, and issues of common interest" were on the agenda for Haftar's visit, the LAAF said on its Facebook page.
Yevkurov has visited eastern Libya several times to meet Haftar.
Their last meeting took place on September 17 at the LAAF headquarters in Benghazi, a few days after floods that left thousands dead and missing in eastern Libya.
Russia has over the past several years strengthened its presence in Africa, vowing to intensify grain exports, weapons deliveries and energy cooperation.
It has stepped up these efforts since being isolated on the international stage following its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Libya is split between the United Nations-supported government of Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah in Tripoli, and the Haftar-backed administration based in the east.
Moscow has maintained close relations with Haftar, who used mercenaries from the Russian paramilitary group Wagner in his failed attempts to take Tripoli between April 2019 and June 2020.
A UN report in 2020 said up to 1,200 Wagner fighters were backing Haftar. Experts say hundreds remain in the North African country.