Following reports of the Russian private military contractor PMC Wagner’s arrival in Libya, a video has surfaced that appears to show personal belongings of a Russian mercenary fighting alongside the self-styled Libyan National Army of General Khalifa Haftar, who supports the rival regime based in Tobruk.
On Wednesday, the Russian Telegram channel Directorate 4, which publishes information on defense and security issues, released a video which they said was shot by forces of Libya’s Government of National Accord. It appears to show personal belongings of a Russian Wagner employee found near El-Sbeaa, about 67 km (41 miles) south of the capital Tripoli.
Units loyal to Fayez al-Sarraj, prime minister of the United Nations-recognized GNA, fight in the area against Haftar’s LNA, which is backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, among others.
Asharq al-Awsat, the Arabic international newspaper headquartered in London and owned by the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, reported on Wednesday, September 25 that GNA forces repelled an LNA attack on Al-Aziziyah, located about 30 km to the west of El-Sbeaa.
A spokesperson for the Volcano of Rage Operation, which was launched against Hafter’s forces after they made an attempt to take Tripoli in April, told Asharq al-Awsat that GNA forces regained control over Bir Allaq after “criminal gangs and Russian mercenaries fled.”
The video of the Wagner contractor’s belongings shared by Directorate 4 shows a plastic card issued by state-owned Russian bank Sberbank; an individual insurance account number, or SNILS, that is typically issued and used by the Pension Fund of Russia; Russian-manufactured medicine; a manual on mines; laminated paper Orthodox Christian religious icons; a military ruler; and Syrian currency. It also shows photos of a child and a mobile phone that contained selfies of a man in camouflage clothing.
— мєℓα∂ ѕαѕѕι (@falconmesurata) September 25, 2019
One of the photos allegedly showed a medal given to Wagner contractors by the Russian government.
“Presumably, this is the award ‘For the victory over ISIS. Syria,’” Directorate 4 wrote.
The channel used open sources to establish that the man depicted, Vadim B., served in the marine corps of Russia’s Pacific Fleet. He also fought in the Syrian conflict as a Wagner employee.
“At the moment, his fate remains unknown,” Directorate 4 said.
#Russian mercenaries from Wagner Group are fighting for #Haftar's militias in Khalit Al-Furjan, Ain Zara and Wadi Rabea frontlines in southern #Tripoli and are tasked with sniper attacks against #Libya's Army forces under #GNA's command, identical sources reported pic.twitter.com/Fo1vjwfQex
— Libya February TV (@TvFebruary) September 22, 2019
Earlier on Wednesday, Bloomberg reported, citing “people familiar with the matter,” that more than 100 Wagner contractors arrived in Libya in early September to assist Haftar’s offensive against the GNA in Tripoli that began in April.
Since April, fighting between pro-GNA and pro-Haftar forces has killed more than 1,000 people and wounded nearly 6,000 more, while at least 120,000 others have been displaced, according to the World Health Organization.
A “Russian mercenary commander” told Bloomberg that “some” Wagner contractors have already been killed in Libya.
In November, the co-owner of the Concord group of companies, Evgeny Prigozhin – whose nickname is “Putin’s Chef” because one of his companies provided food services to the Kremlin – was part of the Russian delegation led by Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu during talks with Haftar in Moscow.
"Putin's Cook" Evgeny Prigozhin, who reportedly controls Russian private military company Wagner, was caught on camera during Defense Minister Shoigu's meeting with Libyan General Khalifa Haftar @DefensePost https://t.co/wzDccI2AwX pic.twitter.com/7EeYBnfVyX
— Anna Varfolomeeva (@AnnaEngV) November 9, 2018
Prigozhin has repeatedly been named as the head of PMC Wagner, but the businessman denies any involvement in the company. The video that disclosed his presence at the Moscow meeting was posted by the Libyan Defense Ministry on its Youtube channel.
Russian authorities claimed Prigozhin attended the talks simply because he was “organizing the official dinner.”
The first details about Russian mercenaries’ operations in Libya appeared in April, when the U.K.-based Telegraph newspaper reported that 300 Wagner contractors arrived in Benghazi and supplied Haftar’s LNA with equipment, including artillery, tanks, drones and ammunition.