MOSCOW, December 22 (RIA Novosti) – Russia has urged the South Sudanese authorities to conduct a full investigation into the UN helicopter accident in which four Russians were killed.
A Mil Mi-8 helicopter was shot down Friday on a reconnaissance flight in South Sudan’s eastern state of Jonglei, the UN said in a statement. All four Russian crew members on board were killed. South Sudan’s army apologized for the downing as soldiers mistook the helicopter for an aircraft carrying arms to rebel forces, Philip Aguer, a spokesman for the military, said earlier on Saturday.
“We are calling on the South Sudanese government to conduct a full-scale investigation into the accident, punish those guilty and implement all measures to guarantee such things do not happen again,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website Saturday.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was established in July 2011 when South Sudan gained its independence, becoming the newest country in the world, because the UN Security Council concluded that the situation there could pose risks to international security.
South Sudan’s army has been fighting rebel forces in Jonglei, including in the region where the helicopter was downed, since early December.
The UN said UNMISS had been informed by South Sudan’s armed forces, known as the SPLA, that they had fired on a helicopter near the settlement of Likuangole, around the area where the UN chopper was downed. However, Reuters cited SPLA spokesman Kella Kueth as saying, “The SPLA did not shoot down the helicopter. Rebels of [David] Yau Yau shot it down.”
According to a Russian defense source, the Russian-built Mi-8 helicopter belonged to a Russian company, Nizhnevartovskavia. The embassy source said it had been chartered by the UN for UNMISS.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack on a “clearly marked UN helicopter,” and urged the government of South Sudan to “immediately carry out an investigation and bring to account those responsible for this act,” his spokesman said in a statement.
The United States expressed its condolences to families of the crewmembers killed in the attack as well as to the government of Russia and also urged a thorough investigation into the incident.