Russians have been increasingly aggressive of late, and not just in harrasing US warplanes or US Navy ships. U.S. Intelligence information says that Russians allegedly paid bounties to the Taliban to attack Coalition forces. Russian Mercenaries and other foreigners entered the Sharara Oil Field in Libya on Thursday, allegedly with the intent to shut down production. Russian planes entered Libya in May, reportedly flown by Russian mercenaries.
The Taliban vehemently deny they are being paid by Russia to attack US and British Forces. UPDATE: Intelligence analysts are suspicious of this report on the Russian bounties, and are in conflict as to whether or not it was real.
“We categorically reject the notion of ever planning or carrying out targeted attacks against U.S. or foreign forces at the behest of foreign intelligence or for the sake of collecting bounty, and we also reject receiving material support from foreign intelligence because such undertakings are harmful for the sovereign decision-making of any country and movement.” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid
If the information is confirmed, calls are occurring for the President to push even harder on Russia than the current sanctions. It is unclear whether the bounties resulted in actual US or British casualites, but if so, there could be h*** to pay.
“If accurate, the administration must take swift and serious action to hold the Putin regime accountable.” Rep Michael McCaul (R-Tx)
“The unit that officials identified as responsible for offering the bounties has also been linked to the poisoning and attempted murder of former Russian military spy Sergei Skripal in Britain in 2018.”
Their presence in Afghanistan with the Taliban complicates an already murky situation. It was revealed in Decmber that Russia was maintaining contact with the Taliban militants.
Russian Mercks in Libya
In May, Russian planes allegedly flown by mercenaries were actively used in the areas of Jufra and Sirte.
“There is concern these Russian aircraft are being flown by inexperienced, non-state PMC [private military company] mercenaries who will not adhere to international law; namely, they are not bound by the traditional laws of armed conflict.” Bradford Gering, AFRICOM’s director of operations.
But that’s only one round of what appears to be Russian interference in Libya’s oil production.
Libya is divided into two factions: the UN backed GNA (Government of National Accord) in the West and the LNA (Libyan National Army) in the East.
The leader of the LNA, Khalifa Haftar, is backed by Russia, the UAE and Egypt. LNA has more than one oil field, but they’re not able to access the bank in Tripoli to get the money from the oil. An attempt to take control of that earlier in the year failed. Only the NOC, National Oil Corporation, is allowed to export oil.
The GNA has the oil field called Sharara, which is about 900 Km south of Tripoli. They are capable of about 315,000 barrels per day, but are currently only producing around 30,000 barrels thanks to being shut down by Haftar’s forces earlier in the year.
Middle East Eye reported,
“According to a statement by the NOC, a number of Russian and foreign mercenaries entered the field on Thursday in dozens of armoured vehicles and met with representatives of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG). It was not immediately clear whether they had seized control of the oil field.
“We do not need mercenaries from Russia or any other country to enter Libyan oil fields because all they seek is to block oil production,” head of the NOC Mustafa Sanallah said.
“There are a number of countries who benefit from the absence of Libyan oil in international markets.
“Whereas these countries have publicly expressed their regrets that Libya has been unable to resume its oil production, they have been covertly doing their best to support the forces who are behind the closure of the oil fields,” he added, referring to countries backing Haftar.
Russians in several parts of the world are attempting to exert their power. Whether it’s with Russian mercenaries or the Kremlin itself, they are up to something, of that you can be assured.
Featured photo via Trip Advisor – The Kremlin in Russia