“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.