Russia continued over the weekend to denounce NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia, while the Kremlin stepped up efforts to schedule a meeting of world leaders to discuss the crisis in the Balkans. As a Russian naval reconnaissance ship steamed toward the Mediterranean, military and political leaders in Moscow also warned that the country is considering various forms of military assistance to Belgrade if the NATO air strikes continue. But, despite the steady outpouring of white-hot rhetoric, Russian government officials continued to say that Moscow would continue–for the time being at least–to refrain from any direct military involvement in the conflict over Kosovo.
There was no letup to the pace of diplomatic developments in Moscow related to the Kosovo crisis. On April 1, President Boris Yeltsin called for a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven leading industrial nations–plus Russia–to discuss the Balkans crisis and the halting of NATO strikes on Yugoslavia. The United States rejected the Russian call, but Italy and France expressed some support for the idea over the weekend (International and Russian agencies, April 1).
A day later, on April 2, a Russian naval intelligence vessel–the Liman–departed from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet base to begin its journey to the Mediterranean. There it will reportedly monitor NATO forces involved in military actions against Yugoslavia. Washington had earlier expressed its unhappiness over the dispatch of the Liman, but Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov dismissed the objections on April 2, along with any concerns that the Russian ship might provide Yugoslavia with data about the NATO operations.
The same day, however, Russian General Staff chief Anatoly Kvashnin suggested that Russia could offer to help Yugoslavia, “depending on the situation.” He did say that there has “been no such need so far” (Reuters, AP, Russian agencies, April 2). Quoting an unnamed General Staff source, a Russian daily reported on April 2 that Moscow, in fact, is already providing intelligence information to Belgrade. The newspaper said that “the Serbs constantly receive information about the takeoff time, route and presumed number and composition of the NATO forces taking part in the raids.” The data, reportedly, came from Russian space-, ground- and sea-based reconnaissance, and is being relayed to the Serbs via satellite communication channels (Kommersant daily, April 2).
RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES TO BENEFIT FROM KOSOVO CRISIS?