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Russia to send 200 peacekeepers to central Africa

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree on sending a Russian military contingent to Chad and the neighboring Central African Republic in support of a UN mission in the region, the Kremlin said on Monday.

MOSCOW, September 1 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree on sending a Russian military contingent to Chad and the neighboring Central African Republic in support of a UN mission in the region, the Kremlin said on Monday.

The Russian peacekeeping contingent will total up to 200 servicemen and include four Mi-8MT helicopters to be deployed in the conflict zone for up to a year.

Clashes between Chadian rebels, allegedly supported and armed by Sudan, and government troops have been devastating the region since 2003 when a loose coalition of three opposition groups whose leaders accuse President Idriss Deby of corruption and embezzling millions of dollars in oil revenue attempted for the first time to oust Deby, who seized power in 1990.

The foreign ministers of the 27 EU member states approved in April a plan to send a peacekeeping mission to Chad and the Central African Republic. The EUFOR contingent, comprising 3,700 servicemen from 14 EU countries, began a year-long UN mandate in March to help facilitate humanitarian work and protect Sudanese refugees and internally displaced Chadians.

Russia is already deploying a helicopter support group in neighboring Sudan. It currently comprises 120 personnel and four Mi-8 helicopters, reequipped to UN and international standards.

The group provides transport for UN military observers in Sudan, while also transporting and accompanying cargoes. It also carries out rescue operations.

Chad gained independence from France in 1960. Since 2003, Chad and Sudan have accused each other of inciting conflict on their common border, especially in the west Sudanese region of Darfur.

According to international estimates, over 200,000 people have been killed and around 2.5 million displaced in the ongoing conflict.

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