Russia signed an agreement with the EU on November 5, which stipulates Russian troops' participation in peacekeeping operations in Chad and the Central African Republic.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had signed a decree in early September on sending Russian peacekeepers to the countries. The contingent, totaling up to 200 service personnel, along with four Mi-8MT helicopters, will be in the conflict zone for up to a year.
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 mandate in March to help facilitate humanitarian work and 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, reequipped to UN and international standards.
The group provides transport for UN military observers in Sudan, while also transporting and accompanying cargoes. It also carries 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.