Aircraft repainted with Libyan colors
Yesterday, sites and accounts lined up with the marshal reported raids by Russian fighters, which were not confirmed by the government, near the town of Al-Gharyan. In any case, the arrival of Russian jets is destined to change the nature of the war. The alarm was raised yesterday also by the Pentagon. Africom, the command which has jurisdiction over Libya, published a report accompanied by satellite and intelligence photos and ordered Moscow to “stop denying” its direct involvement in the Libyan conflict. The document explains how the fighter-bombers were taken from Russia, with a stop in the Syrian base of Hmeimim, where they were repainted with the colors used by the Haftar air force, to “camouflage” the direct intervention. The satellite photos show the planes first in flight with the red star of the Russian aerospace forces clearly visible, then in Syria, and finally in the Al-Jufra and Al-Khadim bases in Libya. They are Mig-29 and Su-24 in modernized versions, and the even more powerful Su-34. They would be driven by Russian or Belarusian mercenaries.
Support for Wagner mercenaries
According to the Pentagon, the new jets have as their first task “ground support for Wagner mercenaries”. The 1200 men, former Spetsnaz special forces, have been withdrawn from the Tripoli front in recent days, but not to be sent back to their homeland. They are now concentrated in Bani Walid and in the Al-Jufra base in central Libya. Moscow intends to reorganize the entire device available to the marshal. The 128th infantry division, newly equipped and trained, is due to arrive in Bani Walid from Benghazi, which will have to integrate with the Russian special forces. Haftar must demonstrate his ability to conduct a more traditional campaign, with less use of the militias, especially the “makhdalist” Salafists, who have proved unreliable in the battles at Sabrata and Al-Watiya. Yesterday the marshal announced a new offensive, “a holy war”, no longer against “terrorists” but against “Turkish colonialists”, and alluded to an “unprecedented air campaign”.
Repetition of the Syrian script
The first goal is the reconquest of Al-Gharyan. The Mig-29s will be tasked with imposing “air superiority” and wiping out the Turkish Bayraktar drones, which have inflicted heavy losses on the marshal’s forces. Russian anti-aircraft systems Pantsir S-1 proved to be ineffective, half a dozen were destroyed by the unmanned aircraft themselves. It will be another story against jets. The Su-24 will instead serve to hit the ground positions of the Al-Serraj militiamen. They have been used unscrupulously in Syria and now the former Syrian rebels are themselves confronted, framed by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Sultan Murad division and deployed in Tripoli. According to a UN report, at least nine thousand fighters have changed the tide of the battle for the capital, a revenge on the Russians, the “revenge for Aleppo”. Three Wagner mercenaries also fell under their blows. The photos of the bodies ended up on social media, a setback for Putin. But now the Tsar seems determined to repeat the gamble of Syria. Unless the Americans get in the way.