East Libya commander Haftar in Moscow for talks with Putin

Kremlin spokesperson confirms meeting, saying the two men discussed the situation in Libya and wider region.

Libyan renegade general Khalifa Haftar during a reception ceremony upon arrival at a Moscow military airfield on September 26, 2023 [AFP]

Renegade general Khalifa Haftar, whose forces dominate eastern Libya, has held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, his forces and the Kremlin said.

Haftar, who sponsors a rival administration to Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli, has long cultivated close relations with Moscow and relies heavily on Russian mercenary group Wagner for military support.

Haftar “held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu”, his Libyan Arab Armed Forces said on its official Facebook page without giving further details.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed Haftar’s meeting with Putin. “They discussed the situation in Libya and the region as a whole,” he said in comments reported by Russia’s state news agency TASS.

It was the first meeting between the two men since 2019, according to Libyan media.

The eastern strongman, who arrived in Moscow on Tuesday, had already held talks with Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov during his visit.

Yevkurov has been a regular visitor to eastern Libya in recent years, most recently on September 17 when he met Haftar a few days after the huge flash flood which swept away much of the coastal city of Derna, killing thousands of people and leaving thousands more missing.

Haftar’s abortive 2019 assault on the seat of the UN-backed government in Tripoli relied heavily on Wagner mercenaries but failed to overcome its Turkish-backed armed forces.

Since an October 2020 ceasefire brought the offensive to an end, Wagner has redeployed some of its personnel to Mali and Ukraine.

But despite repeated United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for the withdrawal of all foreign military forces from Libya, hundreds of Wagner personnel remain stationed in the east as well as in areas of the desert south under Haftar’s control.

Russia has long sought to boost its influence in Africa, a policy that has loomed ever larger since the launch of its war on Ukraine early last year left it saddled with European Union and United States sanctions and increasingly isolated on the international stage.

Source: News Agencies