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Iran Press TV

Russia planning to turn Libya into 'new Syria': UK intelligence

Iran Press TV

Tue Oct 9, 2018 10:58AM

The UK intelligence agencies have reportedly warned Prime Minister Theresa May that Russia is sending weapons and troops to Libya in order to turn the North African country into a "new Syria," an allegation that is likely to further muddy the waters between Moscow and London.

The Sun newspaper reported Monday that "dozens" of officers from the Russia's GRU military intelligence service as well as its Special Forces wing, Spetznaz, had already been deployed to Libya upon Russian President Vladimir Putin's order.

The tabloid newspaper claimed that seizing control of the biggest illegal immigration route to Europe was Moscow's biggest objective.

The report further claimed that the Russian military was already operating two bases in Libya's coastal towns of Tobruk and Benghazi under the cover of a Russian private military company called the Wagner Group.

Russia is also believed to have deployed batteries of its Kalibr anti-ship missiles and S-300 air defense systems on the ground in Libya, the report stated.

"What Putin is doing in Libya is straight out of his playbook for Syria," one government source claimed, referring to Russia's military campaign in support of the Syrian government against terrorist groups across the country.

The official went on to liken Russia's practices to the 2014 re-integration of the Crimean Peninsula to Russia.

"It is a potentially catastrophic move to allow him to undermine Western democracy, but again we are doing nothing about it," the source added.

The report caused uproar among members of the UK parliament, prompting senior MPs to call for government action.

"It's is extremely alarming Russia wants to open up a new front against the West in Libya, but it should also come as no surprise," Commons Foreign Affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat.

"We need a coordinated government response because the destabilization of a sub-Saharan country is intimately linked to UK national security," he added.

Russian officials have agreed to meet with Libyan strongman General Khalifa Haftar in the past. However, the Kremlin denies allegations that it has forces on the ground in the country.

Haftar, who leads the Libyan National Army and is considered the de facto military ruler of much of Eastern Libya, was one of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's senior commanders but later switched sides.

Libya has faced chaos since an uprising and a NATO military intervention resulted in the downfall of Gaddafi in 2011.

The oil-rich country has been grappling with insecurity and the emergence of numerous militant groups, including Daesh, since then.

Tensions are already running high between Britain and Russia.

London has taken an aggressive line with Moscow over the past months, accusing it of increased submarine activity near British waters, poisoning a former Russian double-agent and more importantly, carrying out regular hacking attacks against British infrastructure.

Russia has time and again denied the charges, dismissing them as "Russophobic hysteria" being spread by the West.

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