Home World Russia sparks major alarm as Vladimir Putin eyes Mediterranean base: 'Chaos brewing'

Russia sparks major alarm as Vladimir Putin eyes Mediterranean base: 'Chaos brewing'


Russia has been fuelling major concerns after an investigation showed the Kremlin has ramped up its military presence in North Africa.

An estimated 1,800 military personnel and members of the mercenary Wagner Group were sent to Libya and neighbouring Niger, the report claimed.

The independent Russian website Verstka, jointly with the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the All Eyes on Wagner Project cited sources within Libya’s security agencies alleging the number of Russian soldiers in the country has been steadily increasing since the start of the year.

The Wagner Group has maintained a steady presence in Libya since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in 2011, with the United States accusing Moscow of seeking to interfere with the running of the North African country.

According to the investigation, Russian equipment has been spotted in at least 10 locations across eastern Libya over the past two months.

The All Eyes on Wagner Project, citing a source from the Russian Ministry of Defence, said: “He says there has never been so much noise, tectonic shifts are brewing here. He thinks ‘great chaos is brewing’.”

The investigation added that the latest arrivals from Russia and Ukraine had been involved in covert combat missions or had been tasked with training new Wagner militiamen and local forces.

Speculation of a new defence agreement between Moscow and Tripoli has also exacerbated concerns about Vladimir Putin trying to establish a naval base in the country – securing direct access to the Mediterranean.

Following a meeting between Putin and Libyan eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar last September, former US envoy Jonathan Winer said Washington was monitoring the situation, which it was taking “very seriously.”

Winer added: “Keeping Russia out of the Mediterranean has been a key strategic objective—if Russia gets ports there, that gives it the ability to spy on all of the European Union.”

Russia already operates from the Syrian port of Tartous and establishing another one in Tobruk could hand Moscow a considerable win against NATO.

Russia foreign policy expert Ivan Klyszcz said: “The Central and Eastern Mediterranean is an incredibly important area for Europe and, by extension, NATO.

“Russia already has a Mediterranean port at Tartous in Syria, a port at Tobruk would deepen that presence and potentially bring them into competition with Europe, not least the British, who maintain a large naval presence at Cyprus.”

In addition to its multiple natural resources, including oil and gold deposits, Libya holds a spot of strategic importance because of its links to nearby Niger, Chad and Sudan. It’s also a direct point of access to Europe.

European Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Tarek Megerisi told Al Jazeera earlier this year: “It’s a network.

“It’s not just military support, either. They’re [Russia] using their position in eastern Libya to transport [illegal narcotic] Captagon from Syria, shift gold to evade sanctions, as well as help traffic migrants from southern Africa and as far away as Bangladesh.”

He added: “Libya is a hugely profitable area for Wagner.”

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