Russian helicopter pilot missing in Sudan

Russian helicopter pilot missing in Sudan
# 28 July 2010 23:45 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. A Russian pilot is missing in Sudan, the Russian embassy in Khartoum said on Wednesday, rejecting earlier reports that all crewmembers of a helicopter seized by insurgents had returned safely to their base in Darfur, APA reports quoting RIA Novosti.
Russian charge d’affaires Yury Vidakas said embassy staff were working around the clock to search for the pilot and trying to clarify the circumstances behind his disappearance.
"We can confirm that the pilot is missing. Measures are being taken to find him...and obtain reliable information," he said.
Vidakas said the other crewmembers were safe and in satisfactory condition.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday a helicopter with four crew members and five passengers operating in the Darfur region had been seized by insurgents on Monday. It was also reported that there was no contact with the pilot, but the remaining three crew members and passengers were in a safe zone.
However, the Russian aviation company that owns the helicopter, UTAir, said the helicopter had not been seized, was not damaged, and that the crew and passengers were safe.
The helicopter, working in Sudan under a UN contract, was on a joint UN and African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
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. The Sudanese side 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 rejected negotiations with Khartoum 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).