Russia appears to be sending more military equipment to its mercenaries in Libya, including the flashpoint city of Sirte, in breach of an arms embargo, the U.S. military said on Friday.
Its Africa Command said there was mounting evidence from satellite pictures of Moscow’s military cargo planes, including IL-6s, bringing supplies to fighters from the Russian Wagner Group.
Both sides have been mobilizing forces around Sirte where any major new escalation could risk drawing major regional powers further into Libya’s messy conflict.
The Tripoli-based, internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) is backed by Turkey. The eastern-based forces of Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) are backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt.
“The type and volume of equipment demonstrate an intent toward sustained offensive combat action capabilities,” the Africa Command said in a statement posted on its website.
Both Russia and its LNA ally have denied previous U.S. military statements that Moscow has sent fighter jets to back Wagner forces there.
The GNA earlier this year pushed the LNA from most territory it held in northwest Libya, including in Tripoli, destroying several Russian air defense systems.
However, the LNA stopped retreating at the central coastal city of Sirte, which it took from the GNA in January, and the front line has solidified there.