“If there are Russians in Libya, they are not representing or paid by the Russian government,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in January. In reality, the total number of Russians (paid for, trained, and transported by the Russian government) in Libya as part of the Wagner Group is unknown but rumored to be around 1,500. They remain active and are beefing up their numbers around Libyan oil fields under the control of General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) in direct violation of the UN embargo.  

In a confidential May report, sanction monitors for Libya said that the Wagner Group had up to 1,200 people deployed in the country. That was before Wagner increased its numbers and seized the aforementioned oil fields and production facilities. 

Between Wagner and other recruited militias Russian proxy mercenaries now number close to 5,000 troops, according to U.S. estimates.

Wagner Group troops have seized control of Es-Sider, Libya’s largest oil depot, which contains two of Libya’s biggest oil facilities. It is the country’s most important port for oil exports. 

In April, Wagner was accused by Libya’s Interior Minister, Fathi Bashagha, of carrying out a chemical attack in the country. Bashagha said the Russian mercenaries used a nerve agent against GNA forces in Salah Al-Din area in southern Tripoli. US Africa Command (AFRICOM) accused Wagner of sowing the areas that they withdrew from with landmines and booby traps that have killed 61 and wounded 113 people. The Russians have scoffed at these reports as “crazy talk.” 

AFRICOM continues to show that the Russian Federation continues to violate U.N. Security Council Resolution UNSCR 1970 by continuing to provide military equipment and troops to the front lines of the conflict in Libya.

AFRICOM released several satellite images, which clearly show that Russia supplied Wagner forces operating in Libya with fighter aircraft, military armored vehicles, air defense systems, and supplies. The U.S. tracked 14 SU-24 attack aircraft and MiG-29 fighters that flew from Russia to Syria and then to Libya. Their Russian markings were painted over to conceal their identity.