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First Russian peacekeepers leave on EU mission to Chad

RIA Novosti

14/11/2008 09:29 MOSCOW, November 14 (RIA Novosti) - The first contingent of Russian peacekeepers will leave Russia for Chad on Friday as part of a joint EU mission to support the UN in the Central African country, a Russian Air Force spokesman said.

Russia signed an agreement with the EU on November 5 to deploy a contingent of up to 200 service personnel and four Mi-8MT helicopters in the Central African region for up to a year.

"The deployment of the first detachment of a helicopter group [around 10 personnel], part of the EU operation to support the UN in Chad and the Central African Republic will leave on November 14 from the Migalovo air base [Tver]," Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik said.

Clashes between Chadian rebels and government troops have been devastating the region since 2003, when a loose coalition of three opposition groups attempted for the first time to oust President Idriss Deby. The groups' leaders accuse Deby, who seized power in 1990, of embezzling millions of dollars in oil revenue.

The foreign ministers of the 27 EU-member states approved in April a plan to send a peacekeeping mission to Chad and the Central African Republic. The EUFOR contingent, comprising 3,700 personnel from 14 EU countries, began a year-long UN humanitarian mission in March to help protect Sudanese refugees and internally displaced Chadians.

Russia has already deployed a helicopter support group in neighboring Sudan. It currently comprises 120 personnel and four Mi-8 helicopters, which provides transport services for UN military observers in Sudan and accompanies cargoes, as well as carrying out rescue operations.

Chad gained independence from France in 1960. Since 2003, Chad and Sudan have accused each other of inciting conflict on their common border, which includes most of the troubled west Sudanese region of Darfur.

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