Russia steps up support for private military contractor in Libya: U.N. report

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Russia has stepped up its logistic support for private military contractor Wagner Group in Libya with some 338 military cargo flights from Syria in the nine months to July 31 to aid Wagner fighters backing eastern-based Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, according to a U.N. report seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: The United Nations logo is seen at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The report by independent sanctions monitors - submitted to the U.N. Security Council Libya sanctions committee, but not yet public - also found that Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Russia, and Qatar breached an arms embargo on Libya.

The U.N. missions of Jordan, Russia, Qatar, Turkey and the UAE did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the accusations in the report. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in January that if there are Russians in Libya, they are not representing or paid by his government. [nR4N29101F]

The U.N. report assessed “that direct Russian Federation military logistic support to ChVK Wagner, and possibly the other Russian Federation based private military companies ... significantly increased from January 2020 to June 2020.”

It listed some 338 “suspicious flights from Syria by Russian Federation military aircraft” to Libya between Nov. 1, 2019 and July 31, 2020. In a confidential May report, the sanctions monitors said that Russia-based Wagner Group had up to 1,200 people deployed in Libya. [nL1N2CO16W]

Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Since 2014, it has been split, with an internationally recognized government controlling the capital Tripoli and the northwest, while Haftar rules the east.

Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, while the government is backed by Turkey.

“The arms embargo remains totally ineffective,” the U.N. report said.

“Since the more direct engagement by Turkey in December 2019 and the United Arab Emirates in January 2020, arms transfers to Libya by those two member states have been extensive, blatant and with complete disregard to the sanctions measures,” it said.

The report also found that Egypt, Jordan, Russia, Syria, Qatar, Turkey and the UAE breached U.N. sanctions by not inspecting “cargo of suspicious commercial vessels or aircraft destined for Libya for which there were reasonable grounds.”

The U.N. missions of Egypt and Syria did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis