Russian envoy due back in Belgrade for Milosevic meeting
NATO broadens target range
May 27, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Despite fears that Thursday's U.N. indictment of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on charges of war crimes would complicate peace efforts, a Russian special envoy prepared to return to Belgrade to seek a diplomatic solution to the Kosovo conflict.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said the indictment would bring no change to NATO's air campaign, and said NATO planes would begin striking a broader range of targets in Yugoslavia.
Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin planned to travel to Belgrade on Friday to meet once again with Milosevic. He was scheduled to leave Thursday, but his trip was delayed because of extended talks with his two fellow special envoys -- U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Finnish President Marrti Ahtisaari.
Chernomyrdin went on with the talks despite Russia's objections to Milosevic's indictment by the U.N. war crimes tribunal and the NATO campaign.
Chernomyrdin, in an editorial in The Washington Post on Thursday, repeated Russian threats to pull out of the negotiating process if NATO does not stop its attacks.
"The world has never in this decade been so close as now to the brink of nuclear war," he wrote.
Unless airstrikes end soon, Chernomyrdin indicated he will recommend to President Boris Yeltsin that Russia stop all military and technological cooperation with the United States and Europe.
Chernomyrdin said he would also recommend a delay in the ratification of the START II nuclear arms-reduction treaty and the use of Russia's veto on any U.N. resolution on Yugoslavia.
NATO's campaign also faced a verbal attack on another front.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter criticized the bombing for targeting bridges, roads, water supply systems and other facilities that affect the lives of ordinary Yugoslav civilians.
"They describe themselves as now living like cavemen. In the meantime, Milosevic has become a hero at home because he's defending his country and we're making no progress towards peace," Carter said in a taped interview for CNN's "Larry King Live."
In Washington, the Pentagon said airstrikes would only increase.
Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said Thursday that NATO's top military commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, had again been granted authority to hit a broader range of targets in Yugoslavia.
Although he did not disclose what sites would be added to the target list, a senior U.S. official told CNN that Clark received new targeting authority on Wednesday to hit communications centers and the homes of top generals and others in Milosevic's inner circle.
Pentagon officials said the NATO air campaign had not yet "peaked."
The Pentagon also denied a report in the London Times that U.S. President Bill Clinton is now ready to consider a full-scale land war against Serb forces in Kosovo, sending up to 90,000 combat troops from the United States, if no peace settlement emerges within the next three weeks.
Spokesman Ken Bacon called the report "inaccurate ... in basically every respect."
Pentagon sources said Clark has not yet presented an invasion option to the Pentagon, but has warned U.S. officials such a plan may need to be considered if the air campaign doesn't force Milosevic to back down by the summer.
The two-month-old allied campaign continued throughout the day Thursday and into the night. Belgrade was plunged into darkness when an electrical transformer station was struck at dusk.
Residents reported powerful blasts in the city of Subotica, about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Belgrade.
Late Wednesday and early Thursday, allied forces set a 24-hour record for the number of raids carried out in Yugoslavia -- 308 strike sorties flown out of a total of 741, NATO said.
NATO pilots reported an increase in anti-aircraft fire, which Maj. Gen. Walter Jertz, the alliance's military spokesman, called an act of "desperation."
"They are shooting unguided missiles. They are shooting as many as they can in an attempt to hit a plane just by chance," Jertz said.
All NATO aircraft returned safely.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said the attacks would continue until Milosevic agrees to the conditions set by the alliance, including the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops from the Serbian province of Kosovo and the safe return of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees.
In Belgrade, private television station Studio B said 53 missiles hit the city and its surrounding area overnight in one of the fiercest NATO attacks on the capital since the bombing started March 24.
Serbian media also said a series of "exceptionally strong explosions" echoed early Thursday from the direction of the Batajnica military airport, northwest of Belgrade. Flashes from the blasts could be seen from central Belgrade.
Yugoslavia's state-run Tanjug news agency said NATO struck a ministry building in New Belgrade that coordinates imports and exports of weapons, but the missiles did not explode.
Serbian media reported that two children and a woman were killed and several people were injured in Ralja, 18 miles (30 km) south of Belgrade, when a missile struck residential buildings. Tanjug said three people were killed and two injured when NATO bombed two villages in the Kosovska Vitina area southeast of Pristina, Kosovo's provincial capital.
Other targets attacked included:
Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.
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