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Russia's embassy in Afghanistan is to deliver the presumed remains
Russia's embassy in Afghanistan is to deliver the presumed remains of another two crew members of a Russian helicopter that crashed in the country over a year ago, an embassy spokesperson said on Tuesday.

The Mi-26 Halo heavy transport helicopter had been working alongside the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan when it was shot down in the Kandahar province on December 2, 2006.

"The Russian Embassy in Afghanistan, along with representatives of the Vertikal-T air company [contractor], has received the remains from the staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross and will send them to Russia for examination," the embassy representative said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a news release that it had been requested by both the armed opposition in the area and the Russian authorities to act in its capacity as a neutral intermediary to facilitate the process that resulted in the recovery and handover of the remains.

The head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan, Reto Stocker, stressed that "the handover went ahead without conditions and on exclusively humanitarian grounds."

A Taliban spokesman told the Afghan news agency Pajhwok over the phone on Monday that Taliban militants had handed over the remains to tribal elders as a gesture of good will, because the Russians were neither the immediate enemies of the Taliban, nor were they involved in the military conflict in the country.

The spokesman also said the militants had downed the low-flying Russian helicopter after mistakenly identifying it as a hostile aircraft.

The helicopter crashed into a mountain in Shah Wali Kot at an altitude of 2,500 meters (8,200 ft), where the remains of six of the eight crew members were discovered four days later. These were subsequently sent to Russia and identified.

The helicopter had been used to transport foodstuffs and humanitarian cargoes under a contract with DynCorp International, a U.S.-based private military contractor and aircraft maintenance company.

The Russian Embassy expressed its gratitude to the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan for their assistance.

The ICRC has been working in Afghanistan since 1987. It has repeatedly served as a neutral and independent intermediary in connection with prison riots and hostage releases, and has also helped to arrange the collection of human remains from battlefields.

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