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Russian peacekeepers start rotation in Sudan

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The Russian air group, part of the United Nations Mission in Sudan, will start on Monday a regular rotation which will last until February 2, the Russian Air Force said.

MOSCOW, January 28 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian air group, part of the United Nations Mission in Sudan, will start on Monday a regular rotation which will last until February 2, the Russian Air Force said.

The group, consisting of 120 personnel and four Mi-8 helicopters, provides transport for UN military observers in Sudan, as well as transporting and accompanying cargoes, and carrying out rescue operations.

Air Force spokesman Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky said over 100 pilots and technical personnel with equipment will fly to Sudan on two transport planes. The first group will leave on board an Il-18 plane on Monday, and the second group will be carried by an Il-78 plane on January 30.

The first team of Russian peacekeepers arrived in Sudan in April 2006. They will stay in the country for five or six years with regular rotation of the peacekeeping contingent.

The previous rotation of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Sudan was conducted on July 5, 2007.
Since the conflict in the country began in February 2003, ethnic violence has taken the lives of at least 200,000 people, mostly black African farmers, from which rebel groups fighting the central government in Khartoum draw their numbers, according to the United Nations.

In March 2007 the UN accused Sudan's government of orchestrating and taking part in "gross violations" in Darfur, a western province of Sudan, and called for urgent international action to protect civilians.

About 7,000 peacekeepers from the 26-nation African Union are currently posted in the war-torn region, but they are expected to be replaced with a 26,000-strong joint force from the African Union and the UN later this year.

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