Russia is acting in the interest of the Libyan settlement, a top Kremlin official said on Thursday, reacting to U.S. media reports that Russian contractors were operating in the war-torn north African country.
During a working visit to Israel, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told journalists that there are no grounds for such claims and speculation.
“I categorically refute speculations of this kind,” TASS quoted Ryabkov as saying on Thursday.
“We are acting in the interest of the Libyan settlement, we are supporting the existing efforts [to achieve this], including through the United Nations, we maintain a dialogue with those who somehow influence the situation,” Ryabkov said, noting that this is not the first time American news media spread “various fairy tales, vicious rumors and speculation” about Russia.
A recent report by The New York Times mentioned that 200 Russian “fighters” had allegedly arrived in Libya over the past six weeks as, “part of a broad campaign by the Kremlin to reassert its influence across the Middle East and Africa.” Russia is reportedly pushing far more directly to shape the outcome of Libya’s civil war.
Reports about alleged Russia’s military presence in Libya is not something new. In September, Bloomberg news wire had reported that more than 100 Wagner contractors arrived at a forward base in Libya to support eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar’s assault on the Libyan capital city of Tripoli.
Ryabkov says that these “hoaxes” affect the attitude of the American public, and damage bilateral relations.
“We have already gotten used to this, and we take it in stride,” Ryabkov said. “However, I have to acknowledge that recurrent hoaxes of this kind have a negative influence on the sentiment of the U.S. domestic public, and the general atmosphere in the United States, unfortunately, does not promote normalization of our ties, although we strive for it.”
The report comes at a time of highly charged bilateral relations between Moscow and Washington. The Kremlin has repeatedly stated that any further deterioration in the relationship between Russia and the U.S. contradicts the national interests of the two countries and creates additional threats to international stability and security.
The conflict in Libya, which began with mass protests and uprisings during the Arab Spring after overthrowing and the assassination of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, has resulted in two parallel governments. The eastern part of the country is controlled by the Libyan National Army and the western part is governed by the Government of National Accord.