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Analysis: Reports on Russian troops in Libya spark controversy

Allegations that Moscow is deploying troops to Libya have triggered domestic debate over Russia's role in the crisis.
A man holds a poster of Eastern Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar during a rally demanding Haftar to take over, after a U.N. deal for a political solution missed what his supporters said was a self-imposed deadline on Sunday, in Benghazi, Libya, December 17, 2017. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori - RC1E8C45E420

MOSCOW — Russia is believed to have been deploying dozens of troops to Libya over the last few days. The story, first reported by The Sun, sheds light on what the British media said Prime Minister Theresa May had been briefed by the British intelligence as Russia’s “new Syria” operation. The troops Moscow has sent to Libya allegedly are meant to back up the commander of the Libyan National Army, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who is in de facto control of much of eastern Libya. Hifter has long urged Moscow to help his army with troops and military equipment.

Russia allegedly deployed dozens of special forces (Spetsnaz) servicemen as well as officers of the Chief Directorate of the General Staff, previously known as the GRU, Russia’s main military intelligence service. Some of these forces had been in Libya initially on a training and liaison mission but they received reinforcement within the last few days. Russia has also reportedly established at least two military bases alongside Libya’s coastline in the towns of Tobruk and Benghazi, that are additionally covered by mercenaries from the notorious Russian Wagner Group. The deployment to Libya has been discussed at least since earlier this year, yet some military experts argue the Wagner Group has had longer outposts in the country.

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