News / World Today
US says Russia sent stealth fighters to aid mercenaries in Libya
US Africa Command says planes were 'repainted to camouflage' their origin as Moscow calls for immediate truce and talks.
The US military accused Russia of deploying fighter aircraft to Libya "repainted to camouflage" their origin in support of mercenaries fighting for eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar's forces.
The allegation came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday told a Haftar ally that Moscow backed an immediate ceasefire and political talks that would culminate in united governing authorities.
The United States' fighter jet accusation against Russia raises concerns of a new escalation in the nine-year-long conflict, despite Lavrov's call for a truce.
The US statement said the aircraft arrived in Libya "recently" from an airbase in Russia after briefly stopping in Syria, where they were repainted to conceal their Russian origin.
The Russian defence ministry said it would "not comment right now" on the Africom statement. But Andrei Krasov, a member of the defence committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, dismissed the allegation as "fake" news. Russia has long denied any involvement in Libya's conflict.
The fighting in Libya has drawn in regional and global powers with what the United Nations described as a huge influx of weapons and fighters in repeated violation of a 2011 arms embargo.
Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt support Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which launched an offensive 13 months ago ago to seize the capital, Tripoli, from the the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).
However, in recent weeks the GNA has, with extensive Turkish military backing, pushed Haftar back from his foothold in southern Tripoli and other parts of the northwest.