Russian fighter delivered to Libya in late May are being actively flown in Libya. U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) has photographic evidence of a Russian aircraft taking off from al-Jufra, Libya. A MiG-29 was also photographed operating in the vicinity of the city of Sirte, Libya. These Russian aircraft are being used to support private military companies (PMCs) sponsored by the Russian government. Russia continues to push for a strategic foothold on NATO’s southern flank and this is at the expense of innocent Libyan lives.
In late May, USAFRICOM reported that at least 14 MiG-29s and several Su-24s were flown from Russia to Syria, where their Russian markings were painted over to camouflage their Russian origin. These aircraft were then flown into Libya in direct violation of the United Nations arms embargo. USAFRICOM know these fighters were not already in Libya and being repaired. Russia’s introduction of manned, armed attack aircraft into Libya changes the nature of the current conflict and intensifies the potential of risk to all Libyans, especially innocent civilians.
There is concern these Russian aircraft are being flown by inexperienced, non-state private military companies mercenaries who will not adhere to international law; namely, they are not bound by the traditional laws of armed conflict. If this is true and bombing occurs, innocent Libyan lives are at risk. As the number one arms dealer in Africa, Russia continues to profit from violence and instability across the continent. Russian government backed PMCs, such as the Wagner Group, are active in sixteen countries across Africa.
It is estimated that there are about 2,000 Wagner Group personnel in Libya. The Wagner Group (Grupa Vagnera), also known as PMC Wagner, ChVK Wagner, or CHVK Vagner is a Russian paramilitary organization. Some have described it as a private military company, whose contractors have reportedly taken part in various conflicts, including operations in the Syrian Civil War on the side of the Syrian government as well as in the War in Donbass in Ukraine. It is believed to be owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.