U.S. Officials Believe Russia Could be Interfering in Libya

US aerial reconnaissance assets have recently noticed both Russian transport aircraft and a large Russian drone at an airbase in far western Egypt close to the Libyan border, CNN has learned.

It is not clear if the Russian equipment and personnel are military or contractors, but US officials believe it’s all part of the growing signs that Russia is interfering in Libya, according to this official and another US official.

There was some open discussion of this at the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, when the four-star head of Africa Command acknowledged the US believes Russia is trying to manipulate the political outcome in Libya.

General Thomas D. Waldhauser testified: “Russia is trying to exert influence on the ultimate decision of who becomes and what entity becomes in charge of the government inside Libya. They’re working to influence that — that the decision.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham then asked about the Russians: “They’re trying to do in Libya what they’ve been doing in Syria?”

Waldhauser answered: “Yes, that’s a good way to characterize it.”

CNN spoke to officials in Egypt about an earlier Reuters report alleging the placement of drones and special forces in Egypt near the Libyan border.

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SOURCE: CNN, Barbara Starr, Emma Burrows, and Sarah Sirgany