By Hussein Qabani
An Egyptian military source on Tuesday denied reports about the deployment of Russian Special Forces to an airbase in western Egypt.
U.S. and security sources said Moscow has deployed special forces and unmanned drones at Sidi Barrani, about 60 miles (100 km) from the Egypt-Libya border.
The alleged troop deployment was meant to provide support for forces loyal to East Libya-based military commander Khalifa Haftar, whose forces faced a setback against troops aligned with the Benghazi Defense Brigades in Libya’s Oil Crescent.
“This report is totally untrue,” the source told Anadolu Agency, requesting anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media.
He termed the news report about the deployments as a “fabrication meant to tarnish Egypt’s image”.
“Egypt is a sovereign country and does not accept the deployment of foreign troops on its territory,” he said.
In October, the Egyptian presidency denied reports about Egyptian-Russian negotiations for allowing Moscow to hire an airbase in western Egypt.
“Egypt will not allow the presence of foreign military bases on its territory,” presidency spokesman Alaa Youssef said at the time.
Egyptian-Russian relations have greatly improved since President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi came to power in 2014 following the overthrow of his predecessor Mohamed Morsi in a military coup one year earlier.
In late 2015, a Russian passenger plane was brought down after taking off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Daesh has claimed responsibility for downing the plane.