December 28, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s ambassador to Russia, Chol Deng Alak, on Friday sent condolences to families of the four Russian crew members of a UN helicopter accidentally shot down in Jonglei state by the South Sudan army (SPLA) on 21 December.
Reiterating the claim previously made by the SPLA spokesperson, Philip Aguer, Alak told Voice of Russia (VoR) that “there was no prior information from the UN about this plane being in the area.”
The SPLA initially denied responsibility for the attack on what the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, described as a “clearly marked” helicopter.
Describing the incident as a “tragic accident,” Alak assured Russia of South Sudan’s continued friendship.
Ki-moon and the UN Security Council condemned the incident, demanding a thorough investigation into the matter.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) helicopter was allegedly carrying out a reconnaissance mission in the region where the SPLA have been in conflict with rebel forces loyal to ex-candidate to represent Gumuruk boma [district] of Jonglei’s Pibor county, David Yau Yau.
The Russian foreign ministry also urged the Government of South Sudan to investigate the incident, punish those responsible, and to take steps to prevent similar tragedies.
The remains of the four Russians reportedly arrived in Moscow on Thursday, nearly a week after the incident. On Monday, UNMISS officials in Juba organised a service in memory of the deceased.
Russia, early this week, said it would demand South Sudan to pay compensation for the families of the four pilots killed by the SPLA.