* Russia evacuates embassy staff to Tunisia
* Attack seen as revenge for military officer's murder
* Libyan upheaval lost Russia billions in contracts
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW, Oct 3 Russia evacuated embassy staff and
their families from Libya on Thursday after gunmen tried to
storm its diplomatic mission in Tripoli.
The attackers, who dispersed when embassy security guards
opened fire, had planned to avenge the murder of a Libyan
military officer by a Russian woman living in Tripoli, the
foreign ministry said in a statement.
"Relatives and friends of the murdered Libyan decided to
avenge his death with an attack on the Russian diplomatic
mission," the statement said.
The decision to evacuate staff was taken after Libyan
Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdelaziz visited the embassy.
The ministry said he had told the Russian ambassador that
Libya was "not in a state to guarantee the security of the
Russian embassy and recommended his employees leave the
The statement said that staff and their families had taken
refuge in safe rooms during the attack. They were evacuated to
Tunisia on Thursday and expected to return to Russia on Friday.
The attack demonstrated the volatility in oil-producing
Libya two years after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, and the
problems faced by his former ally Russia as it tries to put
billions of dollars' worth of energy and arms deals back on
The Foreign Ministry and the Kremlin were keen to play down
political angles of the attack, citing the murder as the cause.
The Russian woman, who also wounded the officer's mother,
had been arrested, the statement said.
Diplomatic sources in Libya said security guards fired shots
to disperse a group of about 60 people who tried to storm the
embassy on Wednesday. Russian agencies said the gunmen arrived
in two vehicles before opening fire.
The statement sought to underline cooperation by the two
countries to reestablish Russia's full diplomatic presence in
Libya and reduce any long-term impact.
Clan and tribal rivalries, as well as Islamist groups, have
flourished in the absence of strong central government in Libya.
Security services have struggled to maintain order.
Militant groups have staged a number of attacks on Western
diplomats. Militants linked to al Qaeda affiliates attacked the
U.S. consulate in Benghazi and killed Ambassador Christopher
Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11, 2012.
"When Gaddafi was in charge, ties (between Libya and Russia)
were good. He was buying our weapons and there was talk of a
railroad being built," said Moscow-based analyst Georgy Mirsky.
Asked about the attack, he said: "This kind of thing happens
all the time, there is no reason to exaggerate it."
Russia says it lost billions of dollars in arms deals after
the fall of Gaddafi, who was captured and killed in October 2011
after months of civil war. The violence prompted Russian
companies, which had pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into
Libya's oil and natural gas sectors, to put their investments on
The attack on the embassy occurred as a Russian delegation
was planning to visit Libya to try to put commercial relations
back on track, the head of a business council said.
"Unfortunately these kinds of things happen, not regularly,
but they happen, but that doesn't mean you have to stop
business. It shouldn't be a reason not to restart business and a
relationship," Aram Shchegunts said.
In a sign that the situation may be improving, Tatneft
, a mid-sized Russian oil producer which invested $200
million in Libyan oil exploration, reopened an office in Tripoli
earlier this year. But it also said it was yet to restart
production at Libyan oil fields.