Russian defense minister: peacekeepers will leave for Sudan

Russia will send more than 100 servicemen to Sudan this week to participate in a United Nations peacekeeping operation, the Interfax news agency quoted Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov as saying Monday. Ivanov told President Vladimir Putin that Russia would begin sending an aviation unit in three days, Interfax reported. He said the Russian contingent would comprise 117 servicemen, pilots and technicians, and four Mi-8 cargo helicopters, and that Moscow will send a planeload of blankets, tents and kitchens.

The U.N. Security Council voted in March 2005 to send 10,700 peacekeepers to southern Sudan to monitor an accord ending a 21-year civil war between the government and rebels, and Russia's parliament last December approved Putin's proposal to send some 200 troops, four helicopters and other equipment. There are also U.N. plans for a peacekeeping force in western Sudan, where more than 2 million people have been uprooted from their homes by violence in the Darfur region, but the Sudanese government has not approved a U.N. deployment, reports the AP.

N.U.