(Bloomberg) -- Libya released two Russians held for the past 18 months on suspicion of election meddling, removing a key source of tension between the internationally recognized government in Tripoli and the Kremlin.

Maxim Shugaley and Samir Seifan were detained in May 2019, accused of working to help engineer the return of ousted leader Moammar al Qaddafi’s son through presidential elections in the oil-rich North African state. The Moscow-based company for which they worked denied the allegations.

Russia, a supporter of eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar in the country’s ongoing conflict, had set their release as a condition for improving ties with the Tripoli government, which has received military backing from Turkey during the war.

A private plane arrived Thursday at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport to repatriate the two Russians, said Ahmed bin Salem, a spokesman for the government’s organized crime and counter-terror apparatus that was holding them. Their release was “long-awaited,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters, expressing Moscow’s “satisfaction at this decision by the Libyan authorities.”

Their release follows a cease-fire between the Tripoli government and Haftar, whose military campaign to take over the capital failed earlier this year. Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt back Haftar, with the conflict drawing in thousands of Russian and Syrian mercenaries.

The two detained Russians were employed by the Foundation for the Defense of National Values. Foundation head Alexander Malkevich used to work for a media group that the U.S. government linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a tycoon with close ties to the Kremlin. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Prigozhin and has accused him of election meddling, while the European Union placed restrictions on him for violating the arms embargo on Libya.

Malkevich welcomed the Libyan decision to set free the two men, which he said was the result of intensive efforts by the Russian foreign and defense ministries and other organizations. Shugalei, a political expert, and translator Seifan “are going home from Libya!” he said in a text message.

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