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Waves of flights from Russia and the Emirates fuel the Libyan war, UN says

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Waves of flights from Russia and the Emirates fuel the Libyan war, UN says

CAIRO. War raged in Libya last winter, and a dozen world leaders gathered in Berlin to talk about peace. The controversy surrounding the conference was no secret: many world leaders who pledged an end to foreign interference in the Libyan conflict were themselves feeding it.

Even so, few expected the hypocrisy to be so blatant.

As leaders posed for a group photo with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on January 19, signing a pledge to uphold the arms embargo on Libya, at least five cargo planes carrying weapons from the United Arab Emirates and Russia flew in the skies. North Africa, heading towards the battlefields in Libya.

Details of secret flights that violate the embargo are contained in a confidential report, which will be submitted to a Security Council commission on Friday. Such violations are nothing new in Libya, where even UN officials call the embargo a “joke.” But the sheer scale of the violations so far this year, coupled with the amount of modern weapons circulating in the country, is a source of growing international concern.

Using flight data, ship records and other tools, investigators show that egregious misconduct by leaders who with seeming dedication to violate the embargo have reached new heights.

The four cargo planes bound for Libya on January 19 were sent by the United Arab Emirates, whose leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, smiled as he dined with Ms Merkel in a bright room right before the peace conference. Along with Russia and Egypt, the Emirates support Libyan Commander Khalifa Hifter at war.

The fifth plane that day belonged to Russia – according to the latest US estimates, it was one of nearly 350 Russian military supply flights in nine months that increased the number of Russian and Syrian mercenaries to more than 5,000 fighters.

The United Nations report, which was read by The New York Times and confirmed in interviews with officials, was prepared at a time of intense political instability in Libya, prompting new warnings that the country could plunge into a new, even more devastating round of battle.

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“Libya is truly at a critical turning point,” Acting United Nations Envoy to Libya, Stephanie Williams, warned at a briefing on Wednesday.

Libya plunged into chaos in 2011 after expulsion and assassination of longtime dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi… Since then, it has been divided between two administrations, in the east and west of the country, with the support of rival foreign powers.

Mr. Hifter’s 14-month campaign to take over Tripoli ended in failure in June but he pulled Russia and Turkey into the war even deeper. With oil production shutting down, the battered economy has sagged further and living conditions for Libyans, who have experienced prolonged power outages due to the summer heat, are rapidly deteriorating.

Much of what comes next, however, may be determined by foreign sponsors of the war, who, according to UN investigators, turned the conflict into an extensive proxy war, one cargo plane at a time.

The recent escalation of the conflict began in January, when Turkey intervened decisively, sending drones, air defense systems and thousands of Syrian mercenaries to support the beleaguered Tripoli government.

Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt all responded with a flood of military aid to Mr. Hifter’s forces, which quickly morphed into a giant undeclared military airlift.

In the period from November 1 to July 31, investigators counted 339 sorties by the Russian military, mainly from the Khmeimim airbase in Syria, with a potential volume of up to 17,200 tons. These flights were operated by mercenaries hired by the Wagner Group, a private military company with ties to the Kremlin, which became a key element of Mr. Hifter’s forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied any Russian interference in Libya.

But Russian air travel has intensified over the year, from eight flights in December 2019 to 75 in July, even after the failure of Mr. Hifter’s campaign in Tripoli in June, which a number of Western officials say indicates Russia’s growing interest in the conflict. …

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As the fighting has turned into a stalemate around Surt in recent months, Russian mercenaries have taken up positions around several of Libya’s largest oil fields.

The report also focuses on the United Arab Emirates, which sent an additional 35 military cargo flights to Libya in the 11 days since the Berlin conference in January and about 100 more in the first half of the year, many of which used three charter flights. airlines registered in Kazakhstan.

Many of these planes turned off their transponders – tracking devices that track their location – when they entered Egyptian or Libyan airspace. But attempts to camouflage military cargo flights were mostly superficial.

Investigators said some of the flight manifests contained a suspiciously vague description of the cargo, claiming that they were transporting frozen food, men’s suits or a shipment of 800 boilers. The rest were filled in in the name of the 4th aviation group of the UAE Armed Forces.

Three of these airlines suspended flights in May, when Kazakh authorities suspended their licenses following international complaints. The report says the Emirates military has stepped up to fill the gap, using its US-made C-17 Globemaster freighters to “maintain an air bridge,” making 60 direct flights through July 31.

Since September 2019, the Emirates has also been recruiting Sudanese mercenaries to fight under the command of Mr Hifter under questionable circumstances. Investigators found the recruits were hired by Black Shield to carry out private security work, then were forced to undergo military training and sent to fight in Yemen or Libya.

“These people were hired under false pretenses and sent to military training camps,” the report said.

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The UAE government has not responded to several letters from investigators asking for information or comment on its activities in Libya.

On the other side of the war, the report also accuses Turkey of widespread embargo violations. In early June, three attempts by European Union naval vessels to intercept a Turkish freighter bound for Libya were rejected by Turkish warships. Turkey said the cargo ship was carrying “humanitarian aid.”

Other Turkish military supplies arrive in western Libya on civilian airliners from western Turkey. “It is almost impossible to reserve a seat on any of these flights,” the message says. “Flights are not intended for paying passengers.”

The report also notes Qatar’s return to war. US officials say Qatar largely cut off funding for Islamist groups in Libya during Obama’s presidency under pressure from the United States.

But in May and June, at least five cargo flights of the Qatari Air Force landed in Libya, the report said. Most recently, the Qatari Defense Minister visited Tripoli with his Turkish counterpart, in a demonstration of clear solidarity.

In an interview, a senior Western diplomat confirmed that Qatar has resumed funding for the Tripoli government.

The Libyan civilian population has been particularly affected by the intensity and confusion of the escalating intermediary war.

United Nations investigators have evidence that an Emirates military aircraft struck a refugee center in Tripoli, which killed at least 42 people in July 2019, mostly migrants.

Human rights groups and the U.S. military blame the Russian mercenaries on the installation of mines and booby traps during the retreat from the suburbs of Tripoli in June. The bomb killed at least 61 people and injured 113 people, UN envoy Ms. Williams said Wednesday.

A Kremlin spokesman called the American accusations “crazy chatter.”

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Vladimir Putin has delayed the invasion of Ukraine at least three times.

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Putin has repeatedly consulted with Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu about the invasion, Europa Press told Ukraine’s chief intelligence director Vadim Skibitsky.

According to Skibitsky, it was the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which is responsible for counterintelligence and espionage work, that put pressure on Gerasimov and other military agencies to agree to launch an offensive. .

However, according to the Ukrainian intelligence services, the FSB considered that by the end of February sufficient preparations had already been made to guarantee the success of the Russian Armed Forces in a lightning invasion.

However, according to Kyiv, the Russian General Staff provided the Russian troops with supplies and ammunition for only three days, hoping that the offensive would be swift and immediately successful.

The head of Ukrainian intelligence also emphasized the cooperation of local residents, who always provided the Ukrainian authorities with up-to-date information about the Russian army, such as the number of soldiers or the exact location of troops.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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Life sentence for former Swedish official for spying for Russia

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A Stockholm court on Monday sentenced a former Swedish intelligence officer to life in prison for spying for Russia, and his brother to at least 12 years in prison. In what is considered one of the most serious cases in Swedish counterintelligence history, much of the trial took place behind closed doors in the name of national security.

According to the prosecution, it was Russian military intelligence, the GRU, who took advantage of the information provided by the two brothers between 2011 and their arrest at the end of 2021.

Peyman Kia, 42, has held many senior positions in the Swedish security apparatus, including the army and his country’s intelligence services (Säpo). His younger brother, Payam, 35, is accused of “participating in the planning” of the plot and of “managing contacts with Russia and the GRU, including passing on information and receiving financial rewards.”

Both men deny the charges, and their lawyers have demanded an acquittal on charges of “aggravated espionage,” according to the Swedish news agency TT.

The trial coincides with another case of alleged Russian espionage, with the arrest of the Russian-born couple in late November in a suburb of Stockholm by a police team arriving at dawn in a Blackhawk helicopter.

Research website Bellingcat identified them as Sergei Skvortsov and Elena Kulkova. The couple allegedly acted as sleeper agents for Moscow, having moved to Sweden in the late 1990s.

According to Swedish press reports, the couple ran companies specializing in the import and export of electronic components and industrial technology.

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The man was again detained at the end of November for “illegal intelligence activities.” His partner, suspected of being an accomplice, has been released but remains under investigation.

According to Swedish authorities, the arrests are not related to the trial of the Kia brothers.

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Ukraine admitted that Russia may announce a general mobilization

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“They can strengthen their positions. We understand that this can happen. At the same time, we do not rule out that they will announce a general mobilization,” Danilov said in an interview with the Ukrainska Pravda online publication.

Danilov believed that this mobilization would also be convened “to exterminate as many as possible” of Russian citizens, so that “they would no longer have any problems on their territory.”

In this sense, Danilov also reminded that Russia has not given up on securing control over Kyiv or the idea of ​​the complete “destruction” of Ukraine. “We have to be ready for anything,” he said.

“I want everyone to understand that [os russos] they have not given up on the idea of ​​destroying our nation. If they don’t have Kyiv in their hands, they won’t have anything in their hands, we must understand this,” continued Danilov, who also did not rule out that a new Russian offensive would come from “Belarus and other territories.” .

As such, Danilov praised the decision of many of its residents who chose to stay in the Ukrainian capital when the war broke out in order to defend the city.

“They expected that there would be panic, that people would run, that there would be nothing to protect Kyiv,” he added, referring to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

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At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The Russian invasion, justified by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the need to “denazify” and demilitarize Ukraine for Russia’s security, was condemned by the international community at large, which responded by sending weapons to Ukraine and imposing political and economic sanctions on Russia.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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