Russian diplomat expresses hope South Sudan will be quick to probe deadly copter attack

The Russian president's envoy for relations with Africa expressed hope on Saturday that authorities in South Sudan would be quick to investigate an incident the day before where a UN helicopter was shot down, killing its four-member Russian crew.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Mil Mi-8 helicopter, which belonged to Russian airline Nizhnevartovskavia and was used by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) under a contract with the company, crashed in the vicinity of Likuangole, Jonglei state, after being attacked from the ground.

The Mi-8 bore UN markings and was carrying out a routine contractual flight.

South Sudan officials confirmed that the helicopter had been shot down by government troops, though the local military command had been notified about the flight in advance and promised complete security for the flight.

An UNMISS party sent to the crash site confirmed the death of the four crewmembers.

"The parties to the conflict should turn down their degree of nervousness, which is exercising an extremely negative effect on the work of members of the UN mission. The Russian side expects that the circumstances of the incident will be properly investigated and those guilty will be punished," the Russian president's envoy, Mikhail Margelov, told Interfax.

He mentioned that UNMISS, whose military and police personnel number a total of 7,900, had had its mandate extended until July 15, 2013, as the situation in the region remains a threat to peace.

Nationals of several dozen countries, including Russia, serve in the mission.

Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry demanded that South Sudan authorities punish those who shot down the helicopter and take measures to prevent such incidents.

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