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Is General Hifter becoming Putin's man in Libya?

Despite some speculation, Gen. Khalifa Hifter's sudden visit to Moscow says less about impending arms deals than about Russia's long-term strategy in Libya and the region.
Then-General Khalifa Haftar speaks during a news conference in Abyar, east of Benghazi May 31, 2014. Growing frustration over the reality of life in eastern Libya, which contrasts with the promises of politicians, is feeding support for Haftar, who has set himself up as a warrior against Islamist militancy and who some also see as their saviour.  Picture taken May 31, 2014.  REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS MILITARY) - RTR4QLTY

When Gen. Khalifa Hifter arrived in Moscow on an unannounced visit in late June, experts interpreted it as yet another attempt to secure an arms-transfer deal with the Kremlin. However, the Russian ambassador to Libya was quick to dismiss the speculation. “Unless the Security Council lifts or at least eases the embargo, there can be no talk of Russian weapons deliveries to Libya,” Ambassador Ivan Molotov told Russian journalists.

Hifter's reception in Russia was unusually high profile for such a controversial and divisive figure. He was received by the foreign affairs and defense ministers, but most importantly by Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Security Council, a key decision-making body close to the president. In other words, the message that Hifter received in Moscow likely came from Vladimir Putin himself.

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