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World - Europe

Russians await orders in Kosovo as generals meet with NATO

June 12, 1999
Web posted at: 10:00 p.m. EDT (2101 GMT)

In this story:

Russian generals meet NATO counterparts

U.S. officials downplay concern


MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russian generals left for a meeting with their NATO counterparts in Macedonia on Saturday as officials in Moscow struggled to explain the surprise arrival of Russian troops in Kosovo.

Sergei Prikhodko, a senior international policy aide to President Boris Yeltsin, told CNN the deployment of the small contingent in Pristina was part of the first phase of the international presence in Kosovo. But earlier, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott the move was a mistake.

The Russians waited for further orders at the airport in Kosovo's provincial capital, Pristina. Ivanov said the troops will be withdrawn, but the Russian commander in Pristina said no pullback order had been given.

British Lt. Gen. Mike Jackson, the military commander of the peacekeeping mission, arrived at the airport hours after the first NATO units. He told reporters he welcomed the Russian soldiers to Pristina, and that he planned to meet with their commander Colonel-General Viktor Zavarzin to try to sort out the dispute.

The advance into Pristina came while NATO and Russia were negotiating over Moscow's role in the NATO-led Kosovo peacekeeping force, dubbed KFOR.

Russia wants control over a section of the Serbian province and has balked at putting its troops under NATO command. NATO has resisted giving Russians their own sector.

U.S. officials downplay concern

Clinton administration officials remain deeply concerned over the continued presence of Russian troops in Pristina. But they tried to downplay those concerns Saturday, suggesting that the Russian move was largely a publicity stunt.

President Bill Clinton said Saturday that the United States "looks forward" to working with Russia in keeping the peace in Kosovo but he did not elaborate on what role the Russians could play.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke to her Russian counterpart by phone about the sudden arrival of the Russian troops and the need to make them part of the NATO-led force.

One U.S. official suggested the move could be "a way to make their (Russia's) voice heard, to salvage pride... and play to domestic politics." He said it was "not the best thought-out" action.

Another administration official says it's clear the Russians are "very anxious" to be a major player in the Yugoslav situation. But that official acknowledged "it's not clear" why the Russians are still there.

In London, British military officials said NATO has accepted the Russian explanation that the deployment was a mistake.

"The participation of Russian forces in the peace implementation force was welcome and remains welcome," Armed Forces Minister Doug Henderson said.

Russian generals meet NATO counterparts

A delegation of top Russian generals took off for Skopje, Macedonia, to meet with NATO military leaders a few hours after Russia's troops entered Pristina.

The Russian troops arrived in Pristina at 1:30 a.m. Saturday (7:30 p.m. Friday EDT), upstaging NATO troops' entrance a few hours later. Russia and Serbia are traditional allies, and the Russians were greeted as heroes by the local Serb population.

The Russian commander in Pristina, Gen. Viktor Zavarzin, said his troops were in a "good mood," and he had established contact with "local authorities." Zavarzin was Russia's military representative at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, until he was recalled March 24 to protest the beginning of the air war against Yugoslavia.

Prikhodko said Yeltsin gave the order to move the force from Bosnia into Yugoslavia on Friday -- but left the details of carrying out the order to the Russian military.

The Russian news agency Interfax said more troops could be on their way to Kosovo: Interfax reported Saturday that an additional several hundred soldiers could be flown into Pristina from bases in central Russia.

With KFOR's advance guard approaching Pristina, NATO's top general avoided answering a question about whether the alliance would ask the Russians to place their troops under the command of NATO's military leader in Kosovo.

But NATO troops are familiar with many of the Russian officers in Pristina from their service with the Bosnian peacekeeping mission, Gen. said Saturday.

"We know we will be able to work this out, as soldiers always do," Clark said.

Correspondents Jill Dougherty and Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report.

Russian troops enter Kosovo; Moscow orders them to leave
June 11, 1999
Russian troops enter Kosovo
June 11, 1999
NATO troops ordered into Kosovo
June 11, 1999
Wave of Yugoslav troops, trucks leave Kosovo
June 11, 1999
NATO set to enter Kosovo on Saturday
June 10, 1999
Winners and losers: Analysis of the Kosovo conflict
June 10, 1999
Russians push for separate sector in Kosovo peace force
June 10, 1999
Milosevic proclaims victory with end to Kosovo conflict
June 10, 1999
NATO, aid agencies gear up for Kosovo refugees' return
June 10, 1999

  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
      • Kesovo and Metohija facts
  • Serbia Ministry of Information
  • Serbia Now! News

  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosovo - from

  • NATO official site
  • BosniaLINK - U.S. Dept. of Defense
  • U.S. Navy images from Operation Allied Force
  • U.K. Ministry of Defence - Kosovo news
  • U.K. Royal Air Force - Kosovo news
  • Jane's Defence - Kosovo Crisis

Resettlement Agencies Helping Kosovars in U.S.:
  • Church World Service
  • Episcopal Migration Ministries
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
  • Iowa Department of Human Services
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Immigration and Refugee Services of America
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
  • United States Catholic Conference

  • World Relief
  • Doctors without borders
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (Kosovo aid)
  • Doctors of the World
  • InterAction
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Kosovo Humanitarian Disaster Forces Hundreds of Thousands from their Homes
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Kosovo Relief
  • ReliefWeb: Home page
  • The Jewish Agency for Israel
  • Mercy International

  • Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
  • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
  • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

  • Expanded list of related sites on Kosovo
  • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
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