Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has refuted US media reports about Russian contractors allegedly operating in crisis-torn Libya, calling them "speculation", Defence.az reports citing Sputnik.
"I categorically refute speculations of this kind. We are acting in the interest of the Libyan settlement, we are supporting the existing effort, including through the United Nations; we maintain a dialogue with those who somehow influence the situation. We do not think that there is any grounds for such statements, such fiction, but this is not the first time that US media spread different speculations, wicked rumours, falsehoods targeting us", Ryabkov told Russian journalists during a working visit to Israel
The official noted that such hoaxes affected the attitude of the US public, thus damaging bilateral relations.
"We have already gotten used to this, and we take it in stride. However, I have to acknowledge that recurrent hoaxes of this kind exercise a negative influence on the sentiment of the US domestic public, and the general atmosphere in the United States, unfortunately, does not promote normalisation of our ties, although we strive for it", he added.
The New York Times reported earlier this week that 200 Russian "fighters" had allegedly arrived in Libya over the past six weeks as "part of a broad campaign by the Kremlin to reassert its influence across the Middle East and Africa".
The conflict in Libya started with mass protests during the "Arab spring", and resulted in NATO bombings of the government forces.
Since the overthrow and assassination of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the country has been engulfed in a civil war.
At the moment, Libya is torn between two governments, with the eastern part controlled by the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the western part governed by the Government of National Accord (GNA).