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Russia seeks to outplay the US in Libya

While Russia's preferred candidates lost in last week's vote for interim leadership in Libya, Moscow still has a strategy for reinforcing its influence in the country.
Fighters loyal to the UN-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) secure the area of Abu Qurain, half-way between the capital Tripoli and Libya's second city Benghazi, against forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, who is based in eastern Benghazi, on July 20, 2020. - Since 2015, a power struggle has pitted the (GNA) against forces loyal to Haftar. The strongman is mainly supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, while Turkey backs the GNA. (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP) (Photo by MAHMU

On Feb. 5, members of the UN-led Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) voted on interim leadership for its executive council, selecting Mohammad Younes Menfi as chairman of the Presidency Council and Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah as interim prime minister. The outcome of the vote by the 74-member forum came as a big surprise to external sponsors of the Libyan peace process — and Russia was no exception here. Moscow believed that a list it had agreed upon with Ankara and Cairo, led by Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha and Chairman of the House of Representatives Aquila Saleh, should have claimed the victory.

On the other hand, for Russia in Libya, by and large nothing has changed after the vote. Moscow still expects that its favorite figures will retain their positions, both in the new interim government of Libya — possibly receiving ministerial portfolios there — and following the national elections set for Dec. 24, 2021.

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