Russian fighter jets in Libya could increase civilian casualties, says US

Russian fighter jets in Libya could increase civilian casualties, says US
Russia's continued involvement in Libya - an accusation Russia officially denies - could prove fatal to civilians.
3 min read
19 June, 2020
Civilians are in danger due to the ongoing conflict [Getty]

The United States has accused the Russian government of deploying fighter jets in Libya in support of rogue general Khalifa Haftar.

The US Africa Command (AFRICOM) alleged Russia was using jets to support private contractors and mercenaries working with Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

AFRICOM said it had photographic evidence of a Russian aircraft taking off from Jufra in central Libya, and it added that a MiG-29 was photographed operating in the coastal city of Sirte.

"Russia's sustained involvement in Libya increases the violence and delays a political solution," said U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Bradford Gering, USAFRICOM director of operations.

"Russia continues to push for a strategic foothold on NATO's southern flank and this is at the expense of innocent Libyan lives."

“We know these fighters were not already in Libya and being repaired,” said Col. Chris Karns, director of USAFRICOM public affairs. “Clearly, they came from Russia. They didn’t come from any other country.”

Russia’s use of manned, armed attack aircrafts in Libya changes the nature of the conflict, and increases the potential to kill yet more civilians.

"There is concern these Russian aircraft are being flown by inexperienced, non-state PMC mercenaries who will not adhere to international law; namely, they are not bound by the traditional laws of armed conflict," Gering said.

"If this is true and bombing occurs, innocent Libyan lives are at risk."

Russia’s involvement in Libya concerns world leaders, with critics claiming the Kremlin is intensifying the conflict with his support of Haftar.

“Russia has relentlessly stuck to a narrative of implausible denials in the media,” said Karns.

“It’s difficult to deny facts. Russian interference and masking of activity in Libya is visible and delaying progress. Progress the people of Libya deserve.”

Foreign interference

France has accused Turkey of repeated violations of the UN arms embargo on conflict-torn Libya and says Ankara is an obstacle to securing a ceasefire there.

The European Union has a naval operation in the Mediterranean aimed helping to enforce the arms embargo, but Turkey, a NATO member whose efforts to join the EU have stalled, suspects that it is too one-sided, focusing on the internationally recognised Libyan administration in Tripoli, which Turkey supports.

Read more: Is Libya on the road to de facto partition?

“The main obstacle to the establishment of peace and stability in Libya today lies in the systematic violation of the UN arms embargo, in particular by Turkey, despite the commitments made in Berlin” talks early this year, the French foreign ministry said.

“Turkey’s support for the government of national accord’s offensive goes directly against the efforts to secure a ceasefire, which we support,” the French ministry said.

“This support is aggravated by the hostile and unacceptable actions of Turkish naval forces toward NATO allies, which is aimed at undermining efforts taking place to uphold the UN arms embargo.”

“This conduct, like all foreign interference in the Libyan conflict, must cease,” it warned.

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