French intelligence collects evidence on Russian “invasion” of Tobruk seaport

By on January 22, 2018

News about an increasing Russian interest in Cyrenaica is growing stronger by the day. According to a Russian expert writing for the prominent Middle East analysis website Al-Monitor, representatives of PM Sarraj referred to satellite data provided by French intelligence suggesting Russians are constructing a military base in Tobruk (Twitter, January 17th). A confidential source at the House of Representatives (the Tobruk-based ‘parliament’ loyal to Haftar) claimed that such base could host up to 850 Russian soldiers (NEMO, January 21st).

Previously, French analyst and former intelligence officer Alain Rodier wrote on that Russia was extremely interested in establishing a military base in the deep-water seaport of Tobruk (, January 11th). The rumour was confirmed by the prominent pan-Arab daily Al-‘Arabi al-Jadid, reporting that Russian delegates visited Tobruk more than once in the last period and checked the conditions of the port. The source added that “Tobruk is such a fit for a Russia military base as it is close to Egypt – Russia’s ally in the region – but the delay is due to conflicts between Russia and France on their military presence in Libya” (Libya Observer, January 14th) Apparently, Haftar’s order to shut down Tobruk port last October under the pretext of corruption was not real, but a move related to Russians’ desire to turn the port into a military installation. Moreover, according to Africa Intelligence, officers from the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, are growing in number in Tobruk and Benghazi, and their special forces are giving close support to some of General Haftar’s elite units (Africa Intelligence, January 18th).

Libya is increasingly becoming an arena for external powers exploiting its chaos to advance their influence by betting on one of the competitors, usually Haftar: along with the Russians, French, and Emiratis are also looking to establish a military presence in the east of the country – the former in Wahat, the latter in al-Khadim (War is Boring, December 15th). As foreign powers keep boosting Haftar’s anti-unity agenda, Libya risks more and more to become a lighter version of Syria.


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