No Russian fighter jets in Libya - head of Federation Council defense committee
MOSCOW. May 27 (Interfax) - No Russian warplanes are present in Libya, Chairman of the Federation Council Defense and Security Committee Viktor Bondarev said on Wednesday.
"If there are any airplanes in Libya, they are Soviet, not Russian," Bondarev told reporters.
Bondarev has thus dismissed the statements of U.S. military officials, specifically, the U.S. Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM), alleging that Russia has deployed fighter jets to Libya.
"The statement of the AFRICOM commander about Russia's shipping MiG-29 fighter jets is more like crazy talk," Bondarev said.
Since the Soviet Union collapsed, former Soviet MiG-29 fighter jets "have been fighting around the globe," he said.
"And Libya is no exception. It's not the only African country to have them then and now. By the way, the aircraft is present in the Syrian Air Force and it did very well when working on terrorists on the ground," he said.
The Mig-29 is one of the best fighters created by the Soviet aviation industry, Bondarev went on. "But it is ludicrous to say that one can occupy the Libyan coast with several MiG-29 airplanes. Pilots never occupy anything on the ground," he said.
Bondarev went on to recall that in the 1980s, air forces of almost all Warsaw Pact countries had MiG-29 fighters in their inventories, and the aircraft would be exported to Africa and Asia.
"We have shipped almost one thousand such airplanes abroad since Soviet times. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, our former allies joined NATO and began selling those themselves across the world. I'll tell you something else: the Americans themselves bought some 20 MiG-29 airplanes of various types from Moldova in 1997. Irrevocably. Where are they now?" he said.
"The Ukrainians were once actively selling their own planes they had received as their share of the Soviet Heritage," he said.
The U.S. is actively selling decommissioned F-16 planes everywhere in the world, he said.
"But whenever I see Turkish, Israeli or Italian F-16s, I can't say that this is U.S. Air Force. I doubt the AFRICOM commander doesn't realize that. Maybe, he didn't go into the matter or maybe, they just used him," Bondarev said.
The MiG-29 is a light fighter jet designed in the early 1980s. It is in service with the Russian Aerospace Forces and in many other countries of the world. According to some reports, the MiG-29 is one of the top five best-selling fighter jets in the world. In total , more than 800 such airplanes have been exported.
Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said earlier that Russia had deployed "approximately 14" fighter jets to Libya.
"We asked all parties operating there - the Russians, the Turks, and others - to cease their behavior there. We want a secure and stable Libya," Hoffman said.
The U.S. Africa Command said on Tuesday that Moscow had dispatched fighter jets to Libya to support Russian mercenaries fighting for the forces of Libyan eastern-based Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
"U.S. Africa Command assesses that Moscow recently deployed military fighter aircraft to Libya in order to support Russian state-sponsored private military contractors (PMCs) operating on the ground there," it said in the statement.
First Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma's Defense Committee Andrei Krasov responded the same day by dismissing the claim from the U.S. Africa Command as "a fake and misinformation."
First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council's Foreign Affairs Committee Vladimir Dzhabarov, in turn, told Interfax on Wednesday that Russia has not sent its military forces to Libya, and the Federation Council has not been asked to authorize such.
"No one ever sends Russian servicemen abroad without authorization from the Russian president and the Federation Council. No such requests have been made. This is an attempt to compromise Russia on the world stage," Dzhabarov said.