July 29, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) today announced that a Russian pilot who went missing this week after a helicopter emergency landing was found and returned to their base in Nyala, South Darfur.
"At 17:15hrs today a UNAMID helicopter carrying Sudanese and Mission Security Officers took off from Nyala. The team landed in Oum Sader, approximately 55 km north of Nyala and 50 kilometres east of Kass, for the pick-up of the missing crew member" the statement said.
"The aircraft touched-down in Nyala at 20:15hrs with the Russian pilot who is to be debriefed following a medical check-up".
The helicopter belonging to the Russian airline UTair and operating under a UN contract was transporting members of the Security Arrangements Committee of the Liberation and Justice Movement to locations in South Darfur.
Earlier reports by the Russian foreign ministry on Wednesday suggested that the helicopter belonging to the Russian airline UTair, which had four Russian crew members on board, was seized by Darfur rebels. However, this report was later denied by both the Sudanese authorities and UNAMID.
On the same day a U.N. spokesman said that the missing Russian pilot and the three rebel commanders who were on-board the helicopter were beaten "at the scene" when they landed off target in Darfur. Subsequently the crew and passengers, with the exception of the pilot, were taken to a government military camp.
Yesterday, the Russian special envoy to Sudan Mikhail Margelov revealed that pro-government militias abducted the pilot and expressed confidence that he will soon be released.
Margelov said that they did this to protect non-payment of their dues by Khartoum but emphasized that this was done without the knowledge of the Sudanese government.