16 April 2014, News Wires – A Russian contractor working at an oilfield in South Sudan where fighting erupted this week is evacuating all of its staff from the area after a number were injured in crossfire.
Moscow-based Safinat is attempting to fly five injured personnel from a UN base in Unity state to the capital Juba on Wednesday after the serious incident at Unity oilfield on Monday.
Gunmen loyal to rebel leader Riek Machar claimed this week to have captured Bentiu, capital of the oil-rich state, from government forces after fierce fighting. This was denied on Tuesday by the administration of Salva Kiir, although gunfights have continued.
A spokesperson for Safinat told Upstream that a fight broke out near the company’s camp at Unity oilfield between rebels and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the country’s official army, between 5am and 6am local time on Monday.
Although the company’s 10 workers were not directly targeted, five were injured in the crossfire.
At around 2pm or 3pm on Monday a convoy of UN peacekeepers evacuated all 10 workers and took them to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base in Rubkona.
One Kenyan worker remains in a serious but stable condition. Three Russians and one Ukrainian were also injured, and two require further treatment.
Safinat has decided to fly all injured personnel to Juba as soon as possible, with the spokesperson hoping this can be done on Wednesday. It is hoped the other five can be evacuated on Thursday.
The Russian company is involved in the building of a refinery at the oilfield, which has been shut in since December after fighting spread from Juba to other states.
Rebel spokesperson Lul Ruai Koang was quoted as saying on Tuesday that Bentiu had been captured from government forces. He issued an ultimatum to oil companies in the state, telling them to “immediately embark on gradual and voluntary closure of oil production, and to evacuate all their staff”.
“Failure to comply with this request (will mean that) the oil companies risk forced oil shutdown and the safety of their staff,” he added.
Fighting broke out in South Sudan’s capital Juba in mid-December after President Kiir accused former vice president Machar of plotting a coup – something the latter has denied.
Feuding quickly spread to other states, forcing the world’s newest nation to shut in about one fifth of its production.
Peace has largely reigned in the oil-rich nation, however, following a truce agreed in late January in Ethiopia.
South Sudan split from Sudan in July 2011, taking with it three-quarters of the original country’s oil reserves.
Khartoum relies heavily on revenues from oil production in South Sudan, which must use its neighbour’s midstream and port infrastructure for exports.