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Russia denies media reports of military presence in Libya

A member of the self-styled Libyan National Army, loyal to Khalifa Haftar, rides in a tank through the rubble in Benghazi on July 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Russia says it has deployed no military specialists to Libya, denying media reports that claimed otherwise.
"There are no Russian military specialists in Libya. All talks and publications on the matter are not true," Lev Dengov, the head of the Russian contact group on intra-Libyan settlement, told Russia's Kommersant newspaper on Thursday.
The European Council on Foreign Relations published an article on its website on Wednesday, implying that not only Russian forces were deployed to the country but also there were Russian militiamen fighting in the battle.
The report referred to a particular Reuters report in mid-March, which claimed Russian special forces had been deployed to an Egyptian airbase on the border with Libya.
Dengov said in his statement that there were no individuals from Russia or other former Soviet states fighting in Libya.
"I met with a representative of the Libyan committee for state security who said that today there were no people coming from Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union," the official noted.
Supervised by Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and State Duma member Adam Delimkhanov, the Russian contact group is tasked with analyzing the situation in Libya, identifying key actors and players and engaging in dialogue with all parties to the conflict, according to Dengov.
Libya has been in a state of chaos since a US-led NATO military intervention in 2011, which led to a power vacuum after the death of the country’s longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Today, the country’s west is controlled by the UN-backed Government of National Accord, headquartered in the capital Tripoli.
The eastern part of the country, meanwhile, is governed by the Libyan parliament with its headquarters in the city of Tobruk.
The parliament is backed by the Libyan National Army headed by General Khalifa Haftar, one of Gaddafi’s senior commanders who switched sides during an uprising against the former dictator in 2011.
In December last year, Haftar went to Moscow to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for talks over the situation in the North African country.
Back then, the general said he was visiting Moscow to seek Russia’s help in the fight against extremists.

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