The Ukrainian government says Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army, plans to send fighters from his divided North African nation to support the Russian side in its invasion of Ukraine.
“The transfer of military mercenaries is likely to be carried out at the expense of a private military company,” said Ukraine’s military in its statement. They identified the company as affiliated with the Wagner Group, the Russian mercenary organization that’s been linked to close Putin associate Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Ukraine maintains the Wagner Group fighters are in Ukraine, with another group of fighters connected to Prigozhin arriving in Ukraine on Monday. They said the Libyan deal was struck during Haftar’s recent visit to Moscow. He was believed to have returned to Libya after the weekend.
While it’s unclear where exactly the fighters sent from Libya would come from, some analysts say fighters from other African nations working with Wagner may become involved as well. They include Chad and Sudan.
The Russian government has yet to publicly comment on the agreement, but the Kremlin has long defended the presence of Wagner Group on the African continent and elsewhere. When their fighters entered Mali, for example, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was quick to support Mali’s sovereignty in choosing to welcome them.
In the past, however, Russia also has been careful to distance itself from these fighters, stressing that they are not under control of the Russian government and that Moscow is in no way involved in their operations.
Image: Khalifa Haftar file photo