Libya Tribune

By Mohammad Rabie & Julian Ropcke

Vladimir Putin seems to have learned from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey: After researching BILD, he too is now exporting the Syrian civil war to Libya.

In the south and east of Syria, an unprecedented recruitment campaign for Syrian fighters by the state-controlled Russian private army “PMC Wagner” has started.

As witnesses BILD confirmed, the Russian mercenary company hires young Syrian men. 

Goal: First of all to train them further and then to send them into the Libyan civil war. There they are to fight alongside the renegade general Chalifa Haftar to help him win and “pacify” the country in the spirit of the Russian leadership.

Especially in the southern Syrian province of Quneitra, but also near the East Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, “Wagner”, young Syrians, some former rebels who have “reconciled” with the Assad regime, are trying to win over the civil war in North Africa .

The promise: “They get big financial incentives and they will no longer be persecuted to do military service in the Syrian military,” a witness from Quneitra told BILD.

The Syrian journalist Anwar al-Rifai on BILD: “A relative of one of the young recruits told me that a month ago the officers of the Assad regime’s military secret service and some village mayors began to persuade the young people to ‘Wagner’ for him Join the fight in Libya. “

The “Wagner” contracts should initially apply for three months, as BILD learned from several sources. According to this, the Syrian fighters would be promised $ 1,000 a month. They or their families would receive $ 25,000 to $ 50,000 if they were injured or killed in Libya.

According to journalist al-Rifai, Russia has already “trained dozens of mercenaries to fight for Haftar’s troops in Libya”. The Syrians went through a training process organized by “Wagner” in the center of the country. “Young Syrians are transported by bus to the 18th military division east of Homs to train and equip them there. Then they will be sent to Libya. “

More than 100 men from Quneitra have so far accepted the poisoned offer from the Russian mercenary company. According to BILD information, there could be three times as many. Al-Rifai criticizes: “Russia is taking advantage of the poor economic situation here to attract more young men to its struggle in Libya.”

According to BILD research, the mercenaries and numerous weapons for Warlord Haftar are then flown to Libya from the Russian air force base in Latakia, Syria. 

There have already been 83 such support flights by the Kremlin Army this year, aviation observers report. Mostly with Ilyushin Il-76 transport aircraft, but sometimes with Tupolev Tu-134 and Tu-154 passenger aircraft of the Russian Air Force.

Russia is thereby blatantly breaking all self-signed UN declarations, the arms embargo for Libya and the final declaration of the Berlin Libya conferences on January 19, 2020.

In it, Russia itself had signed by its signature to “recruit mercenaries” for the “To refrain” from war in Libya.

Libya expert Oded Berkowitz from the Middle East security company “Max Security” is also critical of the Russian strategy of sending Syrian mercenaries to Libya. 

It is “a fairly cynical exploitation of the conflict in Syria to fuel the conflict in Libya”.

The Kremlin’s calculation was to strengthen the “Libyan National Army” under General Haftar, “which has suffered setbacks since Turkey began its official military intervention in Libya”. 

At the same time, the deployment of Syrian mercenaries through his (apparent) private army company “PMC Wagner” gave the Kremlin the opportunity to “maintain a plausible denial of his participation in the conflict on the ground”.

A strategy very similar to that in occupied Eastern Ukraine. Here, too, Russia has claimed for years that it is “not a party in conflict”, but controls the fighting through its puppets 100 percent on site.

With its strategy of sending Syrian mercenaries to Libya, Russia is following Turkey, which has been using this method since January – only Erdogan’s Syrian mercenaries support the recognized transitional government of Libya and not rebel general Haftar. 

“The strategies are very similar,” explains Berkowitz. “The concept of a foreign actor recruiting from forces under their influence in Syria and promising them a much higher salary to then fight with the forces that the country is supporting in Libya is essentially the same.”

However, there is a crucial difference, the expert told BILD: “Turkey is officially and openly intervening militarily to support the transitional government in Libya. Russia is now doing this unofficially and covertly. “

No wonder! After all, the Kremlin officially calls on General Haftar to put his arms down. Unofficially, one wants to decide the war for the local favorite. 

Putin is also waging his hybrid war in Africa with sham diplomacy, propaganda and traditional acts of war.

Addendum: As BILD learned from the Syrian region of Quneitra on Tuesday evening, 19 of the 70 men recruited had already returned from a city in the region. 

The reason: When they arrived in Homs, the Russian instructors told them that they had to take part in acts of war in Libya alongside General Haftar. 

Their contracts simply stated that they should have “guarded oil plants in Libya”. Almost a third of the men then refused to fight for Haftar and Putin. The others, according to BILD, would be flown to Libya in the next few days.

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