Meduza news website - based in Latvia and operating in Russian language - has reported citing unnamed colleagues and veterans that between 10 and 35 Russian mercenaries may have died while fighting for Khalifa Haftar's forces in "Libya’s civil war."
According to the Riga-based website, Russia is reportedly providing unofficial assistance to Haftar with a private army linked to President Vladimir Putin, and an unnamed Russian mercenary commander told Bloomberg that contractors had been killed in action last month.
"Russian combatants have been providing massive support to one side in the conflict, in exchange for which Moscow’s Libyan allies have promised oil, railways, and highways.” Meduza reported.
Meduza has learned that as many as 35 Russian fighters from the Wagner PMC have been killed in the Libyan conflict.
"Five of the PMC’s mercenaries and commanders as well as a handful of FSB and MVD veterans with ties to the company spoke about the casualties. They indicated that the fighters in question were from Russia’s Krasnodar, Sverdlovsk, and Murmansk regions." It added.
"While the families of the fighters allegedly killed in Libya have lost contact with their loved ones, neither the Russian government nor Wagner itself has formally notified the families of any combat deaths. This is contrary to the PMC’s typical practice, which is to send death certificates and any military decorations to the relatives of combatants who are killed." It added.
"Khalifa Haftar first requested Russian military and diplomatic support in 2015." A source familiar with that relationship told Meduza, adding that Haftar reached out to Russian officials after admiring the country’s operations in the Syrian war.
"Haftar warned that his planned takeover of Libya would be bloody," but Meduza's source said Haftar promised “oil, railways, highways, anything Russians want in exchange for troops, weaponry, and UN vetoes that would help him reach his goal."
At first, Meduza reported, Russia’s Defense Ministry was skeptical of Haftar’s proposal. He was not invited to Moscow, where he had previously met with high-ranked military officials and with purported Wagner PMC owner Evgeny Prigozhin. Instead, Russian government representatives held negotiations with Haftar and his UN-backed opponents out of the spotlight in the Chechen capital of Grozny.
Meduza added that the Russian mercenaries started being offered the fighting job alongside Haftar's forces since winter 2018-2019 and after Haftar's forces led an attack on Tripoli in last April. Their photos started circulating on social media, yet unlike Syria, Russia didn't strike a large-scale deal with Haftar, who is also backed by Egypt, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.