The Russian Defence Ministry said on Tuesday it did not have special forces in Egypt after US, Egyptian and diplomatic sources told Reuters it appeared to have deployed such forces to an Egyptian airbase, the Interfax news agency reported.
The US and diplomatic officials said any such Russian deployment might be part of a bid to support Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, who suffered a setback with an attack on March 3 by the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) on oil ports controlled by his forces.
"There are no Russian special forces units in Sidi Barrani," Interfax cited Igor Konashenkov, the defense ministry's spokesman, as saying in a statement.
The US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, had said the United States has observed what appeared to be Russian special operations forces and drones at Sidi Barrani, about 60 miles (100 km) from the Egypt-Libya border.
Egyptian security sources offered more detail, describing a 22-member Russian special forces unit, but declined to discuss its mission. They added that Russia also used another Egyptian base farther east in Marsa Matrouh in early February.