United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) revealed on Tuesday that 2,000 Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group have been operating alongside the militia loyal to putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar in Libya.
The head of the public relations department of the AFRICOM Nicole Kirschmann said the heavy presence of the Russian companies and mercenaries in the region destabilizes Africa.
Speaking to the February TV Channel based in Tripoli, she added that Libya needs a political solution rather than the escalation of the mercenaries.
Russia's Wagner Group is one of the most controversial among mercenary groups. It is owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Euronews previously claimed that mercenaries who previously had field experience in Ukraine are fighting on the front line in Libya.
On Jan. 11, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also said that more than 2,000 Wagner mercenaries were currently fighting in Libya.
Putin, on the other hand, when asked about Russia's involvement in the Libyan conflict, replied that no Russian servicemen were in Libya acting on behalf of the Russian state or receiving payment from Russia.
Since the ouster of late dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya, supported by Egypt and the UAE, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which enjoys U.N. and international recognition.
The GNA has been under attack by Haftar's forces since last April, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence.