Yeltsin warns of possible world war over Kosovo
But he says no missiles re-aimed at NATO nations
April 10, 1999
MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin warns that NATO should not push Moscow toward military action over Kosovo, saying this could trigger a possible world war. Meanwhile, the Kremlin denied that Russian missiles had been retargeted toward NATO countries.
Yeltsin's remarks came during what some observers described as the most forceful and extensive public review of Russian policy in more than six months, a time during which Yeltsin often has been seriously ill.
"I told NATO, the Americans, the Germans: Don't push us towards military action. Otherwise, there will be a European war for sure and possibly world war," Yeltsin said in a meeting with regional leaders.
The wide-ranging statements, televised at greater length than usual, came as Russia's opposition-dominated lower house of parliament, the Duma, was preparing for an April 15 debate on an effort to impeach President Yeltsin.
Earlier in the day, Yeltsin said a NATO ground operation in the Serb province of Kosovo would not be left unanswered by Moscow.
"They (NATO) want to bring in ground troops, they are preparing for that, they want simply to seize Yugoslavia to make it their protectorate ... we cannot let that happen to Yugoslavia," Yeltsin said.
The Duma, which is dominated by communists and nationalists, has called for military support for Yugoslavia, a fellow Slav and Orthodox Christian nation.
But Yeltsin spoke of the need for caution and diplomacy.
"I repeat again: Russia will not get involved if the Americans do not push us," he said.
Seleznyov comments said to be misunderstood
In Brussels, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea sought to reassure Russia that ground troops would be considered only in terms of the peacekeepers needed to secure a peace agreement.
"It cannot be in Russia's long-term interest to isolate itself in the Balkans with (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic at a time when he himself is more isolated than ever among the countries in the region," British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in London Friday.
The speaker of the Russian Duma, communist Gennady Seleznyov, quoted Yeltsin earlier Friday as saying he had ordered nuclear missiles to be targeted toward NATO members involved in the bombing of Yugoslavia, and backed a political union of Russia, Belarus and Yugoslavia.
But the Kremlin later denied this, and Seleznyov's spokesman said his boss had been misunderstood.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, considered a key player in the Kosovo crisis, said he was not aware of any presidential order to retarget Russia's nuclear missiles.
Ivanov further said that a Russian reconnaissance ship in the Adriatic was not passing on intelligence to Yugoslavia in its conflict with NATO. Russia sent the Liman, a small eavesdropping vessel from its Black Sea fleet, to the Mediterranean last week.
Ivanov told reporters: "All information from (the) reconnaissance ship is passed only to Russia."
Correspondents Jill Dougherty and Betsy Aaron andReuters contributed to this report.
Yeltsin says Milosevic seeking entry in Russian-Belarus union
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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