The mid-August visit to Moscow by Gen. Khalifa Hifter of the Libyan National Army (LNA) did not stir a lot of interest. It appeared to be just one among numerous visits by international guests to the Russian capital. Several articles on Russian policy in Libya and even a Kommersant interview with Lev Dengov, head of Russia’s Contact Group for Intra-Libyan Settlement and a man who seldom talks to journalists, failed to break through the overall monotony and routine. Arguably the most significant event of the visit was that Hifter was met at the airport by Libya’s ambassador to Russia. Hifter, based in Tobruk, is vying for control of the country against the Tripoli-based so-called unity government, or Government of National Accord (GNA), which the ambassador represents. The standard diplomatic routine of Hifter’s visit has clouded the major question about the aim of his visit earlier this month.
The general said he had traveled to Moscow to focus on lifting the UN-backed international arms embargo, to establish ties and to promote military cooperation. This explanation, albeit interesting, does not appear to be plausible. Moscow has already voiced its view on these issues, and repeatedly affirmed its commitment to international obligations, and is therefore unlikely to change its position. Speaking off the record and on the condition of anonymity, some sources close to senior officials in Hifter’s LNA have said the purpose of the visit was to inform Moscow about matters addressed at the Paris peace talks in July.