The crewmembers and passengers of a Russian helicopter seized by insurgents in Sudan were beaten and one pilot is still missing, a spokesman for the UN secretary general said on Wednesday, RIA Novosti reported.
Russian charge d'affaires Yury Vidakas said earlier on Wednesday the Russian embassy in Khartoum was working around the clock to search for the missing pilot and to clarify the circumstances behind his disappearance.
The other crewmembers were safe and in a satisfactory condition, Vidakas said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that a helicopter carrying four crewmembers and five passengers operating in the Darfur region had been seized by insurgents on Monday. Other reports said that there was no contact with the pilot, but the remaining three crewmembers and passengers were in a safe zone.
However, the Russian aviation company that owns the helicopter, UTAir, said the helicopter had not been seized, was not damaged, and that the crew and passengers were safe.
The helicopter, working in Sudan under a UN contract, was on a joint UN and African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
The civil war that broke out in the western region of Darfur in early 2003 has claimed the lives of more than 300,000, according to United Nations estimates, and forced 2.7 million people from their homes. The Sudanese side puts the number of dead at 10,000.
Several Sudanese rebel groups have recently signed peace accords with the government in Khartoum but a key rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army, has so far rejected negotiations with Khartoum and fought fierce clashes with the Sudanese Army in March.
Russia has been maintaining a peacekeeping contingent in the war-torn country since April 2006 as part of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).