Even before the death of Prigozhin in a plane crash in Russia on August 23, 2023, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus Bek Yevkurov went to Libya the day before to meet Marshal Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army which controls part of Libyan territory.

Libya, which had been quite neglected by Russia delegating its affairs to Evgeny Prigozhin and some GRU operators, seems to once again become a strategic country for Moscow serving as a link between its expansion in the Sahel and the installation of a Russian naval military base in the Mediterranean.

On site, a source from the Russian Ministry of Defense, from whom we were able to cross-check all the information, told us that he had been to Libya several times before the war in Ukraine. He says there has never been so much noise, tectonic shifts are brewing here. He thinks “great chaos is brewing.”

With Verstka, an independent media, and the support of Radio Svoboda, the Russian service of RFE/RL, we discovered that thousands of Russian Defense Ministry personnel as well as “Wagner” recruits were transferred to Libya since the beginning of the year under the cover of a paramilitary organisation, probably African Corps.

Arrival of thousands of Russian fighters in Libya

According to information obtained by our consortium, Russia has been transferring Russian military and fighters to Libya for the past three months. According to a Libyan security source that we consulted, there are already 1,800 Russian soldiers in the country for the past two weeks.

They are mainly grouped in Eastern Libya, in territories controlled by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army and its affiliated militias. Some of them were transferred to Niger while others remained in Libya awaiting further instructions, according to the consortium source.

This information is also shared by a Russian Defense Ministry source, who indicates that several hundred members of the special forces were redeployed from Ukraine to Libya at the beginning of the year.

Several thousand professional military personnel and other fighters belonging to the Wagner Group’s « African Directorate » arrived in Libya from February to April. According to the Russian security source, the soldiers are in Libya unofficially and are presented as representatives of a private military company. AEOW believes that it could be the new African Corp brand carried by the GRU Special Actions Service outside Ukraine commanded by General Andrey Averyanov.

According to our consortium sources, part of the Russian military personnel is responsible for the education and training of Libyan fighters and recruits of the “African Directorate”. The other part carries out targeted missions such as the transport of military equipment, said one of the interlocutors at our consortium.

The Russian contingent in Libya would be controlled by four commanders rotating between Syria and Libya. In turn, they would report directly to Yunus-Bek Yevkurov.

Thanks to technical OSINT tools, several individuals of Syrian nationality were also detected among Russian individuals on military bases. The @KHADORA1 account was recently detected at Al Kharoba airport, which has been used to transport equipment by Russian planes since December 2023.

Active military bases

Our sources indicate the presence of this new contingent on several bases affiliated with the LNA: Kharouba/Al Khadim, Jufra, Tobruk, with two further bases in the south. They also mention the existence of a new training camp near Benghazi which we have not been able to identify. Nevertheless, our online research detected a revival of the Russian presence and events in recent months.

Ghardabiya airbase, IVO Syrte

A Russian personnel under the name “Andrei” was identified in direct proximity of the airbase. The appearance of this account correlates with a parade/military exercise held by the Libyan National Army (LNA).

The event was geolocated south of Ghardabiya, at the following coordinates: 30.815761, 16.86251. Using satellite imagery from Sentinel 1, All Eyes on Wagner were able to accurately determine the location where the Pantsir systems were located during the exercise. The small runway is only visible on Sentinel 1 and does not appear on  platforms such as Google Earth.

Al Marj

Pictures of alleged Russian mercenaries visiting a shop in al Marj were released on Libyan social media on 17th March 2024. All Eyes on Wagner confirmed the pictures were taken in al Marj through reverse image and image geolocation techniques.

The pictures were taken on one of the streets of al Marj and the shop identified.

In addition, an account associated with a Russian phone number was located at the al Marj airport. The account appeared in the area in February 2024. We were unable to collect any further information about this account.


On 30th March, the Telegram account Milinfolive, associated in the past with the coverage of Russian military and Wagner Group operations in Africa, published several photos of a Libyan National Army (LNA) training exercise.

The vehicles were identified as being the 5-door versions of the Russian made Tiger SBM VPK-233136 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC).

The unit badge visible on the pictures allowed us to confirm the unit of the LNA to which the vehicles were delivered. The Tiger APCs featured in Milinfo Live’s video were delivered to the LNA’s 106th “Syrte” Brigade, commanded by the son of Marshall Haftar, Saddam Haftar. The brigade had already received TAG Terrier LT79 vehicles in 2019.

Brak Al Shati

According to Jalel Harchaoui, associate fellow at the British think tank Royal United Services Institute, the Brak Al Shati military base has seen its workforce increase by almost 25%. Using various OSINT tools, we were able to confirm the presence of Russian military / former military personnel around Brak al Shati airbase. This presence is relatively new. Previous investigations, as recently as March 2024, had not revealed such presence, suggesting it is quite recent.

One of the detected accounts belongs to a Russian soldier registered under a Russian number under the nickname “Arkan”. The owner of the account is 28-year-old Russian Maxim Kukol. In other users’ phone books he is listed as « Scumbag ».

Until 2021, it had no connection with the military domain according to Russian administrative databases. Kukol lived in Sochi and worked as a security guard, storekeeper, loader and factory worker. In 2022, he lived in Voronezh with no further indication of his profession.


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