Russian Peacekeepers to Pull Out of South Sudan

Russia is to withdraw its peacekeeping troops from South Sudan, the Kremlin website reported on Tuesday.

All Russian soldiers and helicopters should leave the African country by April 1, 2012, a presidential decree published on the website said, adding that the decision was due to the official end of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on July 11, 2011.

Russia currently has eight helicopters and 120 personnel servicing the UNMISS.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said last week that Russia might withdraw its helicopters from South Sudan amid concerns over the safety of its personnel.

Gatilov was speaking after an upsurge in inter-ethnic violence in the impoverished oil-producing state, which caused 60,000 people to flee their homes.

A series of recent tribal clashes in the country, which just won its independence six months ago, is believed to have left some 3,000 people dead, according to local officials. The United Nations has yet to confirm the figure.

“We have not been happy about security in the region recently,” Gatilov told reporters in Moscow.

Gatilov said Russia doubted the authorities’ ability to contain violence, as both they and the UN had failed to give assurances about the safety of the Russian task force.

Since a number of Russian personnel deployed in South Sudan were attacked in November last year, the Russian helicopters have been grounded, he said.

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