| MILITARY PLAN:|
|CNN's Richard Blystone looks at KFOR's efforts to disarm Kosovo rebels (June 19)
|CNN's Richard Blystone reports from Novosela, Yugoslavia on the aftermath of the Kosovo conflict (June 19)
|CNN's Mike Boettcher reports some guerrillas laughed at calls to put away their weapons -- until they were led away to a police station (June 19)
KFOR expects Serb forces to beat Sunday exit deadline
June 19, 1999
Web posted at: 11:24 p.m. EDT (0324 GMT)
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- After more than a year of bloody conflict on the ground and devastating strikes from the air, the Yugoslav military presence in Kosovo is scheduled to finally come to an end Sunday.
Under terms of a disarmament plan for the troubled province approved June 9, all Yugoslav security forces must be out by midnight Sunday (2200 GMT, 6 p.m. EDT). Officials with the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force said they expect the Yugoslavs will beat the deadline, perhaps by as much as 12 hours.
"We do expect that they will have vacated the area ahead of the agreed schedule," said KFOR spokesman Lt. Col. Robin Clifford, who estimated that less than 5,000 Yugoslav troops remain. They are concentrated in an Italian-controlled sector in the western part of Kosovo, he said.
As the Yugoslavs leave, more evidence emerged Saturday of atrocities committed in Kosovo.
A suspected mass grave site was found just outside the village of Izbica. Witnesses told international war crimes investigators that they saw Yugoslav forces rounding up and shooting ethnic Albanians at the site near the end of March.
People who escaped the alleged massacre say that as many as 150 bodies may be buried at the Izbica site.
The Yugoslav pullout has triggered a mass exodus of ethnic Serbs from Kosovo. Clifford said that between 25,000 to 40,000 Serbs may have fled, though "it's extremely difficult to know exactly how many."
The Serbs fear retaliation from members of the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army. It was the KLA's armed struggle against the Yugoslav government in the predominantly ethnic Albanian province that triggered a military crackdown in February 1998, beginning a chain of events that led to NATO airstrikes.
KLA members agreed to demilitarize as part of the peace framework for Kosovo worked out between NATO and the Yugoslav government. But some KLA members have vowed not to lay down their weapons, saying they consider themselves a legitimate army guaranteeing Kosovo's security and independence.
NATO soldiers in Pristina have been confiscating weapons from KLA members, as well as Serb civilians. They have even ordered KLA soldiers on the streets of the provincial capital to remove their armbands.
In other locations, however, armed KLA members dressed in camouflage drill openly, in sight of KFOR troops, disquieting both Serb civilians and KFOR commanders.
Representatives of KFOR and the KLA have been negotiating over demilitarization and are reportedly near an agreement. Whether guerrillas in the field will go along with any deal calling for them to lay down their weapons remains an open question.
At least one KLA commander told CNN that his forces would "never disarm." The guerrillas, CNN has learned, are willing to drop their military activities, but they want to hold onto their weapons.
Some KLA members consider themselves to be a legitimate force for Kosovo's security
Under an agreement signed Friday in Helsinki, Finland, by Russian and U.S. leaders, about 3,000 Russian troops will take part in KFOR, serving in sectors controlled by German, French and American forces.
However, the Russian soldiers, while taking direction from KFOR, will remain under the ultimate command of Russian military and political leaders.
KFOR leaders hope the presence of the Russian troops will reassure Serbs that they are safe in Kosovo and stem the current exodus.
As part of the agreement, the Russians also agreed to allow other KFOR participants to have access to Pristina's airport, which had been seized by a small contingent of Russian soldiers on June 12. The airfield, closed since the NATO air campaign began, is expected to reopen in a few days.
Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin told the Itar-Tass news agency that his country would be "most actively and directly involved" in Kosovo, including disarming "illegal groups" -- a reference to the KLA, which Russia and Yugoslavia consider a terrorist organization.
Tens of thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees have crossed back into Kosovo, but that is only a fraction of the estimated 1 million ethnic Albanians who fled the province as NATO bombed Yugoslav forces it accused of carrying out a government-sanctioned "ethnic cleansing" policy.
Relief agencies are pleading for the refugees to wait until their safety can be assured.
"The refugees should stay where they are until NATO and the UNHCR and other organizations say it's safe," said NATO spokesman Capt. Wolfgang Greven.
Dozens of refugees have been wounded by mines or booby traps, Greven said. NATO is now producing special television ads to warn refugees of the problem.
Correspondents Richard Blystone, Matthew Chance, Jim Clancy and Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.
G-8 nations to tackle Third World debt
June 18, 1999
Agreement reached on Russian role in Kosovo force
June 18, 1999
Yugoslav forces meet second withdrawal deadline
June 18, 1999
U.N. wants 2 weeks before Kosovar refugees return
June 18, 1999
Returning refugees find gruesome remains in wrecked Kosovo
June 17, 1999
U.S., Russia extend talks on Russian role in KFOR
June 17, 1999
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
Kesovo and Metohija facts
Serbia Ministry of Information
Serbia Now! News
Kosova Crisis Center
Kosovo - from Albanian.com
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
Doctors without borders
U.S. Agency for International Development (Kosovo aid)
Doctors of the World
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
ReliefWeb: Home page
The Jewish Agency for Israel
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
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.