"Russia continues to supply the Libyan rebels with a wide range of weapons, including combat aircraft, air defense missiles, landmines, and armored vehicles, through the Wagner mercenary group backed by Moscow," the Pentagon said on Friday.
The Pentagon released satellite images that it said showed military equipment that the Wagner Group had brought to the "front lines" of the Libyan conflict in Sirte.
The pictures show a Russian I-76S Ilyushin cargo plane, combat aircraft, SA-22 إطلاق missile launchers, heavy trucks, and anti-mine armored vehicles in Sirte and Al-Khadim Air Base (east of Benghazi).
"The pictures are proof that Moscow is building its presence in Libya alongside Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who is launching a military operation to seize power from the United Nations-backed Accord government in Tripoli," said General Bradfor Gering, director of operations for the US Army's Africa Command.
Gering added - in a statement - that the type and size of the equipment demonstrate an intention to build capabilities for long-term offensive military action, not humanitarian aid, and indicate that the Russian Ministry of Defense supports these operations.
Earlier, AFRICOM said that Russia was continuing to search for a foothold in Libya. And she added - in a tweet on Twitter - that she has growing evidence that Russia, through the Wagner Group, continues to deploy land and air military equipment in Libya.
LIBYA: #Russia & the #Wagner Group continue to be involved in both ground & air operations in #Libya
"Russia continues to play an unhelpful role in Libya by delivering supplies & equipment to the Wagner group," said Maj. Gen. Gering.
More: https://t.co/NewSqn0cMJ pic.twitter.com/E7zEMDQxZi
- US AFRICOM (@USAfricaCommand) July 24, 2020
Russia and its ally, Haftar Forces, denied previous statements by the US military that Moscow had sent combat aircraft to support the "Wagner" group there.
Both sides of the conflict are massing their forces around Sirte, where any major escalation could push major regional powers into the quagmire of anarchic conflict in Libya.
Turkey supports the internationally recognized national reconciliation government based in Tripoli, while Russia, the UAE, and Egypt support eastern Libya forces led by retired Major General Khalifa Haftar.