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Russia denies sending military personnel to Libya

Russia has not sent military personnel to Libya and the Russian upper house of parliament has not received a request to approve such a dispatch, Interfax on Wednesday cited Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the upper house’s international affairs committee, as saying.

The US military earlier on Tuesday accused Russia of deploying fighter aircraft to Libya to support Russian mercenaries fighting for eastern forces there, adding to concerns of a new escalation in the conflict.

The warplanes left Russia and first stopped in Syria, where they “were repainted to camouflage their Russian origin” before arriving in Libya, said the US military command for Africa (Africom) in a statement.

Stuttgart-based Africom did not specify when the jets flew in, saying only that it was “recently”.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said that the Russians had sent a mix of “approximately 14 military fighters.”

Africom posted pictures of the Russian aircraft on its Twitter feed, including one that it said showed several MiG-29 Fulcrum jets and Su-35 Flankers parked at an airbase.

The claim comes a day after Libya’s UN-recognised government said hundreds of Russian mercenaries backing rival military commander Haftar had been evacuated from combat zones south of the capital Tripoli.

But Andrei Krasov, a member of the defence committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, dismissed the allegation as “fake” news.

Separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reaffirmed the need for an immediate ceasefire and “constructive dialogue” in Libya, according to his ministry, following talks with the speaker of Libya’s parliament.

World leaders agreed in January to uphold the embargo and stop meddling in the conflict, but the UN has repeatedly warned that both sides have continued to receive arms and fighters.

Separately, the US Navy said that Russian SU-35 fighters flew dangerously close to a US P8-A surveillance aircraft over the eastern Mediterranean on Tuesday, the third such “unsafe and unprofessional” interception in the past two months. Source