Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 12

Even as Belgrade’s defiance of the international community mounted yesterday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry continued its efforts to deflect criticism of the Yugoslav authorities. Prior to yesterday’s Security Council meeting Moscow did join with other countries in calling for an investigation into the massacre at Racak. But a Russian Foreign Ministry statement appeared to place the primary blame for the latest atrocity in Kosovo on Kosovo Albanian rebels, and on the Western governments that Moscow says has supported them.

The Russian statement portrayed the massacre as another link in a longer chain of “military confrontation, hostage-taking and other provocations”–Moscow’s keywords for the actions of the Kosovo Liberation Army. The statement also suggested that the massacre had somehow been the specific result of the West’s failure to address Moscow’s and Belgrade’s concerns about the recent seizure of eight Yugoslav servicemen by Kosovo Albanian rebels. While calling for the participation of independent international experts, the Russian statement also appeared to place primary responsible for investigating the Racak massacre on the Yugoslav authorities themselves (Itar-Tass, January 18).

Yesterday’s developments underscore the lengths to which Moscow is prepared to go to back the hardline government forces in Belgrade. That support for Belgrade is likely to be manifested both in upcoming Security Council deliberations, and in any consultations among members of the six-nation Contact Group–which includes Russia, the United States, France, Germany, Britain and Italy. Moscow called yesterday for the group to convene immediately. The latest developments in Yugoslavia are also likely to exacerbate tensions between Russia and the NATO military alliance, which has been compelled once again to consider intervention in Yugoslavia. And that, in turn, will probably raise anew questions about NATO’s authority to take action in Yugoslavia without a direct UN mandate–a mandate which will surely be refused by Russia and China.