MOSCOW, December 22 (Itar-Tass) —— Moscow urges South Sudan to conduct a proper investigation into the helicopter incident and bring those responsible to account, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
On December 21, near the residential site of Likuangole, the state of Jonglei, in the Republic of South Sudan, a Mi-8 helicopter of the Nizhnevartovskavia company, which worked under contract with the U.N. mission in South Sudan, was shot down by fire from the ground.
The helicopter had U.N. identification markings and was on a flight on U.N. mission assignment, the ministry confirmed.
The search and rescue group of the U.N. mission, which was immediately sent to the site, confirmed the crewmembers were dead.
The crewmembers are Russian citizens Sergei Ilyin (Commander), Alfir Abrarov (co-pilot), Sergei Yegorov (flight engineer) and Nikolai Shpanov (flight engineer and radio operator).
The Russian Foreign Ministry expresses deep condolences to their families and friends.
"We urge the government of South Sudan to conduct a proper investigation into the incident, punish those guilty and take all measures to guarantee that such will not recur," the ministry stressed.
Authorities in South Sudan officially admitted that the helicopter was shot down by the armed forces of the state, though the local command beforehand and in accordance with the established procedure was informed by the U.N. mission about the planned flight. Full security guarantees were given to the mission.
Immediately after receiving the information about the incident, the U.N. Security Council, as Russia insisted, adopted a U.N. SC statement condemning the actions of the armed forces of South Sudan that resulted in the deaths of Russian citizens. The SC in the statement expressed sincere condolences to the pilots' families and the Russian government and urged the U.N. mission and the government of South Sudan to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into the incident and bring those guilty to account.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also made a statement harshly condemning the irresponsible actions of the South Sudanese military.
The tragic incident in the African country again raises the issue of ensuring security for U.N. missions, the Foreign Ministry noted.
Governments responsible for security of U.N. peacekeepers must have a very serious approach to the issue and realize all possible consequences of failures in the area, the ministry said.