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Russia rejects reports of troop deployment near Libyan border

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A member of the Libyan National Army (LNA) walks past an armored vehicle as he holds a position during fighting against terrorists in Qanfudah, on the southern outskirts of Benghazi, on January 14, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Russia has categorically dismissed Western media reports claiming it deployed special forces to an Egyptian town near conflict-ridden Libya.

“There are no Russian special forces in Sidi Barrani. Certain Western media have been stirring the public with such mud-slinging from anonymous sources for years,” Major Genrral Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, said Tuesday.

The remarks came a day after Reuters quoted unnamed US and Egyptian military and diplomatic sources as saying that Russia had deployed a 22-member unit of special forces and several drones to an Egyptian airbase near the Libyan border.

Egypt’s Defense Ministry has already rejected the report.

The Reuters report also said any such Russian deployment might be part of a bid to back Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, who suffered a setback with an assault on March 3 by the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) on oil ports controlled by his troops.

Five years after the fall of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is still embroiled in violence and political chaos. Rival governments were set up in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and the east of the country in 2014.

General Khalifa Haftar is linked to the government based in the eastern port city of Tobruk. He has refused to pledge allegiance to the UN-backed government in Tripoli.

The Reuters report came on the same day that several eastern Libya officials, including Commander Haftar, visited Moscow and held talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

During the meeting, Bogdanov emphasized the need for a political solution to the crisis in Libya.

Moscow “reaffirmed its strong support of the political process, based on the imperative to ensure the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement following the talks.

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