Is Putin making another power grab in the Middle East?


Russia has denied supporting a Libyan general who is currently marching on the country’s capital in an apparent attempt to take control of the north African nation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Friday that he hoped the crisis in Libya would not lead to ‘renewed bloodshed’, adding that Moscow did not support Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar.

‘We are monitoring the situation in Libya very carefully,’ Peskov said.

Asked if Russia considered supporting Libya militarily, Peskov said: ‘No, Moscow is not taking part in this in any way.’

Strongman Haftar, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, controls some parts of the country, while the capital is the seat of an internationally-recognised unity government.

Militias in western Libya vowed Friday to confront Haftar after his attempt to seize the capital, Tripoli, raising fears of renewed civil war in the oil-rich nation

Haftar, who runs the self-styled Libya National Army that is based in the country’s east, is currently pushing westward, bringing his army closer to rival militias, which control Tripoli.

A showdown between Hifter’s army and the militias could plunge Libya into another spasm of violence, possibly the worst since the 2011 civil war that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

It would also put at risk upcoming peace talks between Libyan rivals brokered by the U.N. and aimed at drawing a roadmap for new elections. Those talks are due April 14-16.

Moscow has repeatedly denounced the overthrow of Kadhafi, insisting that the NATO-backed regime change only led to new crises.

‘We believe that the main thing is for any actions not to lead to renewed bloodshed,’ Peskov also told journalists.

Peskov added it was ‘necessary to continue all possible efforts to fully resolve the situation with peaceful political means.’

The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency closed-door meeting on Friday afternoon at Britain’s request to discuss the unfolding developments.

Haftar’s troops on Thursday captured the town of Gharyan, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Tripoli without a fight, putting them closer to the militias than ever before.

Haftar then ordered his forces to march on the capital, saying in an audio recording posted online: ‘We are coming Tripoli, we are coming.’

He also urged his forces to enter the city peacefully and only raise their weapons ‘in the face of those who seek injustice and prefer confrontation and fighting.’

Haftar’s spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari said later the army’s next stop would be the town of al-Aziziya, considered the gates of Tripoli.

In response, the militias from the western cities of Zawiya and Misarata, which control Tripoli, posted on social media early Friday that they’re mobilizing to confront Haftar.

‘We are the revolutionaries and the elders … we declare we are on full mobilization and war,’ they said.


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