East Libya strongman Haftar in Moscow talks with Putin

Friday September 29 2023

Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar salutes during a reception ceremony upon arrival at a Moscow military airfieldin Russia on September 26, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


Military strongman Khalifa Haftar, whose forces dominate eastern Libya, held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday, his forces and the Kremlin said.

Haftar, who sponsors a rival administration to Libya's UN-backed government in Tripoli, has long cultivated close relations with Moscow and relies heavily on Russian mercenary group Wagner for military support.

Read: Russia's presence in Africa: Weapons, Wagner and energy

Haftar "held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu", his Libyan Arab Armed Forces said on its official Facebook page without giving further details.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed Haftar's meeting with Putin. "They discussed the situation in Libya and the region as a whole," he said in comments reported by Russia's state news agency TASS.

It was the first meeting between the two men since 2019, according to Libyan media.


The eastern strongman, who arrived in Moscow on Tuesday, had already held talks with Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov during his visit.

Yevkurov has been a regular visitor to Eastern Libya in recent years, most recently on September 17 when he met Haftar a few days after the huge flash flood which swept away much of the coastal city of Derna, killing thousands of people and leaving thousands more missing.

Read: At least 2,300 dead in Libya floods, thousands missing

Haftar's abortive 2019 assault on the seat of the UN-backed government in Tripoli relied heavily on Wagner mercenaries but failed to overcome its Turkish-backed armed forces.

Since an October 2020 ceasefire brought the offensive to an end, Wagner has redeployed some of its personnel to Mali and Ukraine.

But despite repeated UN Security Council resolutions calling for the withdrawal of all foreign military forces from Libya, hundreds of Wagner personnel remain stationed in the east as well as in areas of the desert south under Haftar's control.

Russia has long sought to boost its influence in Africa, a policy that has loomed ever larger since the launch of its war on Ukraine early last year left it saddled with EU and US sanctions and increasingly isolated on the international stage.