Russian officials arrested in Libya
Libyan security forces have arrested two men accused of working for a Russian company that was seeking to influence elections in Libya.
A letter from the state prosecutor of the internationally-backed Tripoli government to a Libyan security chief said the men were involved in “securing a meeting” with Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi, the fugitive son of the ousted dictator and a potential presidential candidate who enjoys the backing of some officials in Moscow. A third Russian citizen left Libya before Libyan authorities raided his residence.
Russia’s foreign ministry said it was aware of the reports and was seeking to verify them.
According to the Russian news agency TASS, said that the head of the Russian non-profit organization “Foundation for National Values Protection” Alexander Malkevich confirmed that Libyan authorities had detained two members of his organization. One of the arrested persons has been identified as what TASS described as a well-known sociologist Maxim Shugalei.
Bloomberg reports that laptops and memory sticks found with the suspects showed that they worked for an outfit identified as Fabrika Trollei, Russian for Troll Factory, that “specializes in influencing elections that are to be held in several African states” including Libya.
Fabrika Trollei was the nickname given to a network of media and political outfits connected to Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, who’s been accused by the U.S. of funding and organizing operations to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Libya had planned to hold elections this year as part of a UN-sponsored roadmap but it has has been upended since eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar launched in April a military assault to capture Tripoli.