Russia's Putin: Russians fighting in Libya do not represent the state

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting in Yalta, Crimea January 10, 2020. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin, asked on Saturday whether mercenaries known as the Wagner Group, were fighting in Libya, said that if there are Russians in Libya, they are not representing the Russian state, nor are they paid by the state.

Russian private military contractors have clandestinely fought in support of Russian forces in Syria and Ukraine, Reuters and other media have previously reported. The contractors are recruited by a private military group known as Wagner Group whose members are mostly ex-service personnel.

The Russian state denies it uses mercenaries abroad.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Writing by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Frances Kerry