The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Friday that a Russian helicopter pilot who was missing in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region has been freed.
Mi-8 helicopter commander Yevgeny Mostovshchikov was seized by an armed tribal group on Monday. The group held him for three days near the village of Aborjo in Darfur. The pilot was released and taken out of the area on Thursday evening by the UN peacekeeping mission and the African Union (UNAMID).
“We highly appreciate how the search-and-rescue operation was carried out and we express our sincere gratitude to all those who took part in it,” Andrei Nesterenko said.
The Russian aviation company that owns the helicopter, UTAir, has provided transportation support to the UN peacekeeping mission in the region since 1991 and is the largest provider of helicopter services to the UN.
The civil war that broke out in the western region of Darfur in early 2003 has claimed the lives of more than 300,000, according to United Nations estimates, and forced 2.7 million people from their homes. Sudan puts the number of dead at 10,000.
Several Sudanese rebel groups have recently signed peace accords with the government in Khartoum, but a key rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army, has so far refused to sign a deal and fought fierce clashes with the Sudanese Army in March.
Russia has been maintaining a peacekeeping contingent in the war-torn country since April 2006 as part of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).
MOSCOW, July 30 (RIA Novosti)