Mercenaries from the Wagner group, a Russian paramilitary organization believed to be close to Vladimir Putin, are fighting in Libya, UN diplomats said on Wednesday, citing an expert report on the country’s arms embargo.
It was the first time that the United Nations confirmed for the first time in the American media allegations according to which the group supported the military strongman Khalifa Haftar. Moscow has denied being responsible for the deployment of the group.
The report also revealed that Haftar was supported by Syrian fighters.
The Wagner group is a dark private security company and thousands of its contractors are said to be involved in foreign conflicts between Syria and Ukraine in the Central African Republic.
A senior US State Department official told AFP the group is “an instrument of Kremlin policy” in Libya.
“The Panel has identified the presence of private military agents of ChVK Wagner in Libya since October 2018”, according to the UN report, according to several diplomats who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, the document did not having not yet been made public.
“Wagner has provided technical support for the repair of military vehicles, participated in combat operations and engaged in influence operations,” said the UN report.
They are also involved in “more specialized military tasks such as acting as advanced artillery observation officers and advanced air traffic controllers, providing expertise in electronic countermeasures and deploying sniper teams. elite, “he continued.
“Their deployment has acted as an effective force multiplier” for Haftar, the statement said.
Experts said they could not independently verify the number of Wagner mercenaries in Libya, but estimated their deployment to be between 800 and 1,200.
The report, submitted to the UN Security Council on April 24, notes that there are tensions between Wagner and Haftar’s command.
No call for sanctions
He also revealed that Haftar is receiving help from Syrian fighters, further complicating the conflict.
In February, Turkey said pro-Turkish Syrians were fighting in Libya to support the internationally recognized National Accord Government (GNA).
Haftar opened a consulate in Damascus, where the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is supported by Russia.
The UN report says Syrian mercenaries are now fighting alongside Haftar – although he said he couldn’t identify who was responsible for their training and funding.
The fighters have reached Libya via at least 33 flights operated by the private Syrian company based at Damascus Cham Wings Airlines since the beginning of this year, according to the report, adding that they were less than 2000.
The text is an update to the last annual report of the December expert group, which noted the existence of foreign armed groups from Chad and Sudan in the conflict, but did not mention Wagner.
Pro-Haftar forces have been fighting to seize the capital, Tripoli, from the GNA since April 2019.
Foreign military engagement has exacerbated the conflict, with the United Arab Emirates and Russia supporting Haftar and Ankara providing the GNA.
A January truce negotiated by Turkey and Russia has been repeatedly violated.
Wagner’s involvement in the conflict was first revealed by the New York Times and the Washington Post last year. The former estimated their number at 200, while the latter indicated that it could reach several thousand.
The UN report does not recommend sanctions against the groups or any action to prevent their involvement.
A report by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, submitted to the Security Council on Tuesday and obtained by AFP, also mentions foreign mercenaries but does not identify them and does not recommend any action against them.