The Russian defense minister has warned against telling “a bear what to do,” as he was commenting on his British counterpart, describing Russia as “a bear” and saying the West does not need it “sticking its paws in” Libya.
“While on the ‘animal’ topic… What do they [UK] have on their coat of arms? A lion, I guess. There is an old saying: all lions are felines, but not all felines are lions. Let everyone mind their own business. I don’t think that there is an animal in their zoo that can tell a bear what to do,” Sergey Shoigu said while answering questions from students at a conference held by the Moscow State Institute of International Relations on Tuesday.
On Friday, speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said that the UK doesn’t need “the bear sticking its paws” in Libya’s affairs, the Daily Mail reported.
Fallon mentioned a video conference call between Russia’s Defense Minister Shoigu and Libyan Army Commander Khalifa Haftar that took place a month ago during Haftar’s visit to Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.
“He went on the aircraft carrier for a video call with Shoigu, that’s not interference is it, yet?” Fallon said. “Putin is testing the west. He is testing the alliance [NATO]. At any point he sees weakness, he pushes home,” Fallon said.
“That’s why it is important we stand up for our values and we continue to back the Sarraj [the prime minister of the UN-recognized government of Libya] government while urging it to be more representative of the interests of the east.”
Libya has been in turmoil since the killing of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, following an armed rebellion backed by Western military intervention.
In 2015, Libya’s rival governments – the Council of Deputies based in Tobruk, and the Tripoli-based General National Congress – agreed upon setting up a Government of National Accord (the GNA) that would form the Presidency Council.
In January 2016, the first meeting of the GNA cabinet took place in Tunisia. However, Libya’s Tobruk-based parliament, supported by troops loyal to Haftar, refused to cooperate with the unity government.
Commenting on the situation in Libya, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said that the crisis could be settled only in cooperation with all political forces operating in the country, while calling attempts to dictate decision from outside the country “counterproductive.”
“It’s clear that the country’s future must be determined by Libyans. We believe that the attempts to impose ready-made solution on them are counterproductive,” Lavrov said in his February 10 interview to the Russian Izvestiya newspaper, stressing that Moscow “continues meticulously working with both power centers in Libya.”