On Saturday, May 9, Russia Today will broadcast a documentary titled “Shogali”, which tells the story behind the arrest of Russian sociologist Maxim Shogali and his Libyan translator in Tripoli by armed groups loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) in early 2019.
The film chronicles part of the Libyan crisis, the chaos caused by extremist militias in the capital, Tripoli, as well as the breakdown in attempts to peacefully resolve the Libyan conflict.
A Russian team headed by Shogali (who is a political adviser to the Moscow-based Foundation for the Defense of National Values) was officially invited to Tripoli by the GNA to research popular opinion in Libya and analyse possible solutions to the Libyan crisis.
However, the researchers were arrested in Martyrs Square by members of the Al-Rada Brigade as they were interviewing passersby on their views of the government and the situation in Libya.
Al-Rada, or Special Deterrence Forces, is one of the major armed groups that controls Tripoli. It is funded and supported by the Ministry of Interior.
The researchers and their Libyan translator were sent to Maetiga Prison in May of 2019. They were illegally detained and, one year later, are yet to be charged for any crimes. The prison is known for its record of human rights violations.
The arrest of the team of Russian researchers also exposed tensions between the GNA’s Ministry of Interior (the de facto controller of armed groups) and the government itself, particularly Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
According to local reports, the researchers had obtained information that would expose the internal affairs of the GNA to the international community, including the extent to which armed groups controlled the capital and engaged in violations against civilians.
Russia has strongly criticised Turkish presence in Libya and Turkey’s decision to support the GNA by sending thousands of Syrian fighters and advanced weapons to Tripoli —leading some observers to speculate that the continued detention of the Russian national and his assistant is a covert attempt to pressure Moscow to change its policy towards Libya.
“Shogali” also covers how Russian military personnel prepared an operation to rescue Russian hostages from Maetiga, which is located in Maetiga International Airport.
Turkey and armed groups loyal to the GNA are using the airport as a base of operations, making it a target for the Libyan National Army (LNA) in its Tripoli offensive. As a result, civilians and prisoners in the airport and surrounding areas are at constant risk of getting caught in the crossfire.