Russia has withdrawn around 1,200 of its mercenaries from Libya, amid a series of setbacks in its offensive in Ukraine and the pressure it has reportedly put on its military manpower.
According to the Financial Times, unnamed Libyan officials told it that 200 Russians belonging to the mercenary Wagner Group and 1,000 Syrians hired by Moscow had left Libya in recent weeks. The report clarified, however, that 5,000 of the Russian mercenaries still remain in the country.
The Wagner Group – reportedly managed and financed by an oligarch named Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has close ties with Russian President, Vladimir Putin – has been active in a number of countries over the past five years including Syria, where it assists the regime of Bashar Al-Assad, and Libya, where it assisted the rogue Field Marshall, Khalifa Haftar, before his defeat in 2020 and remained there afterwards.
During its operations in those countries, the group has committed numerous human rights abuses and atrocities against the civilian populations, setting up explosive land mines in Libya and beating, torturing, and burning unarmed men in Syria.
Aside from Libya, it has also operated elsewhere in Africa such as the Central African Republic and Mali, where the group still has an overwhelming presence. According to some media reports, an estimated 200 Wagner fighters have also left the Central African Republic in this recent withdrawal.
Russia's reported withdrawal of the mercenaries comes amid setbacks suffered by the Russian military in Ukraine over the past two months, in which it has been forced to give up its attempt to capture the capital, Kyiv, and refocus its efforts in the south and east of the country.
It is expected that the Wagner Group mercenaries could be diverted and deployed to assist Russian forces in their operations in Ukraine, where the group has already long had a presence over the past eight years.