A mercenary from Belarus has spoken of getting paid ?1,900 a month to help Col Muammar Gaddafi's forces fight against the rebels and said there were "several hundred" of his compatriots doing the same thing.
By Andrew Osborn, Moscow 10:43PM BST 06 Apr 2011
The mercenary, who only gave his name as Mikhail, said he and his colleagues did not take part in the actual fighting but acted as advisers and were always present on the frontline. He told Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that many of his fellow Belarusians were veterans of the Soviet Union's 1979-89 war in Afghanistan and often had Special Forces backgrounds.
The paper, which reported that Nato's tactics were being frustrated by Col Gaddafi's forces, claimed that the mercenaries from Belarus were responsible for the Libyan army's unexpected resilience.
"It looks very much like the Belarusian advisers have managed to keep the Libyan army disciplined and have told them how to use mobile tactics against the rebels and how to deal with Nato air activity," the paper wrote. "For now the Belarusian partisans are winning!"
Five hundred Belarusian advisers were in Libya before the war broke out though some had since been evacuated, it added. While the mercenary named as Mikhail said he was working for the Libyans as a private contractor, it was not clear whether some of the other advisers were on official secondment from the Belarusian armed forces or also hired guns. Witnesses in Libya claim to have spotted Belarusian mercenaries fighting on Col Gaddafi's side but the Belarusian foreign ministry has angrily dismissed the alleged sightings as false rumours designed to tarnish its reputation.
Belarus, a former Soviet republic known as Europe's last dictatorship, has long enjoyed close ties with Col Gaddafi's regime. Its president, Alexander Lukashenko, refers to the Libyan leader as "Brother Muammar".
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