MOSCOW - RUSSIA believes a ground invasion of Libya is almost a certainty and feels justified in abstaining from a UN Security Council vote sanctioning military action, a top official said on Wednesday.
'There is no coordinated plan in place and the operation can drag on,' Kremlin foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko told the ITAR-TASS news agency.
'We understand that sooner or later, if the air operation gets bogged down, a ground operation will be inevitable, whatever they tell us,' Mr Pikhodko said.
Russia abstained from last week's Security Council vote and expressed concern about the 'indiscriminate' use of force in the current air campaign over Libya. The operation has been particularly strongly opposed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who this week compared the UN resolution to a medieval call to crusades.
'How can the aim of protection of the civilian population involve means that lead to an increase of civilian casualties? This can only cause concern,' Mr Putin said on Thursday while paying a visit to Belgrade.
Mr Putin has been publicly rebuked for previous comments on Libya by President Dmitry Medvedev, who has also offered to help mediate an end to the crisis. But Mr Medvedev cited Libyan government toll figures during a Tuesday meeting with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, which prompted the Pentagon chief to question how Moscow could accept Muammar Gaddafi's 'lies' about casualties. -- AFP