Ten Russian BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, the first part of an order made by the Qaddafi regime, have been handed over to the Libyan army. The handover ceremony took place at Mitiga Air Base. Attending were the Chief of Staff, General Abdel-Salam Jadallah Obeidi and the Chief of Staff of ground forces, Brigadier General Yousef Abu-Hajar, together with the Russian Ambassador, Ivan Molotkov, and a Russian delegation.
General Obeidi welcomed the guests and praised what he called the close ties between Libya and Russia based as they were, he said, on mutual respect. The re-activation of the deal, he added, would help make Russia an important partner in the present process of rebuilding the Libyan army.
In the 1970s and 80s, according to the Russian media, Libya acquired from the Soviet Union more than 2,000 tanks, 2,000 armoured infantry fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers, some 450 self-propelled artillery pieces as well as a number of combat aircraft and large quantities of small arms. During the period, it was among of the largest buyers of Russian-made armaments in the world.
In 2010, Libya and Russia signed a $1.75-billion military cooperation to upgrade Russian-made tanks and weaponry used by Libya since the Soviet era. However, delivery of the BMP-3 tracked vehicles, closely resembling battle tanks but in fact designed to destroy tanks, was halted as a result of the arms embargo imposed by the UN at the start of the revolution in 2011.
This past year, though, Russia has been keen to reactivate arms sales. A fortnight ago, when the Foreign Minister, Mohamed Abdulaziz, was in Moscow for talks, his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov spoke “good prospects” of Russian resuming supplies of military equipment to Libya following talks between both men.
The BMP-3 handover ceremony took place at Mitiga Air Base.