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Russian peacekeepers start rotation in Sudan

RIA Novosti

04/08/2008 10:39 MOSCOW, August 4 (RIA Novosti) - A group of Russian Air Force personnel will fly to Sudan later Monday as part of a scheduled rotation of Russia's contribution to the UN mission in Sudan, a service spokesman said.

"Eighty pilots and technical specialists will fly to Sudan on August 4 aboard an Il-18 military transport plane," Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik said.

He added that a second group of 40 servicemen would go to Sudan on August 8.

The first unit of Russian peacekeepers arrived in Sudan in April 2006. They are expected to stay - with regular rotations - for five or six years.

The Russian aviation group in Sudan comprises 120 personnel and four Mi-8 helicopters reequipped to UN and international standards.

The group provides transport for UN military observers in Sudan, as well as transporting and accompanying cargoes. It also carries out rescue operations.

The UN Mission in Sudan was established in 2005 to monitor the peace agreement between the government in Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in southern Sudan, which ended the longest-running civil war in Africa.

The UN presence in Sudan has since been expanded to include peacekeeping operations in Darfur. Since 2003, Chad and Sudan have accused each other of inciting conflict on their common border, which is along the west Sudanese region of Darfur.

According to international estimates, more than 200,000 people have been killed and around 2.5 million displaced in the ongoing conflict in Darfur.

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