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    Russia sends helicopters, peacekeepers to Chad

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    A Russian An-124 Condor heavy transport plane has delivered four helicopters along with personnel to Chad to take part in an EU-led mission to support UN peacekeeping efforts in the country, an Air Force spokesman said on Monday.

    MOSCOW, December 8 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian An-124 Condor heavy transport plane has delivered four helicopters along with personnel to Chad to take part in an EU-led mission to support UN peacekeeping efforts in the country, an Air Force spokesman said on Monday.

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

    "The An-124 plane delivered four Mi-8MT helicopters and over 30 personnel, including helicopter crews and technicians, who will soon begin assembling the aircraft," Col. Vladimir Drik said.

    According to Drik, the transport plane made an eight-hour non-stop flight from a military airfield in central Russia to the capital of Chad, Ndjamena, carrying over 40 tons of cargo.

    Russian transport planes have so far delivered over 200 tons of cargo, more than 80 personnel, five vehicles, and four helicopters as part of a Russian peacekeeping contingent in Chad.

    In addition, Russia already has a helicopter support group deployed in neighboring Sudan. The unit comprising 120 personnel and four Mi-8 helicopters provides transport and rescue services for UN military observers in Sudan.

    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, through five years of clashes between Chadian rebels and government troops trying to oust President Idriss Deby, who seized power in 1990.

    Over 700 people, including 400 civilians, were reported to have died in February this year following fighting triggered by a rebel assault on Ndjamena.

    The EUFOR contingent, comprising 3,700 personnel from 14 EU countries, began a year-long UN humanitarian mission in March to help protect the civilian population and provide humanitarian aid in the country's troubled eastern region.

    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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