Russia’s military high command weighed in once again yesterday over developments in the Balkans. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told journalists in Moscow that military leaders were considering the possibility of withdrawing Russia’s peacekeeping contingent from Bosnia. The Russian contingent–more than 1,000 strong–is part of the NATO-led Stabilization Force in Bosnia. It has already been withdrawn formally from NATO command as a Moscow protest over the Western alliance’s military campaign against Yugoslavia. But Sergeev suggested yesterday that Moscow was thinking of going a step farther. “We are studying all possible options,” he said, “and troop withdrawal is one, depending on the development of the situation in Yugoslavia” (UPI, AP, Russian agencies, April 13).
In a bit of saber-rattling, Sergeev also said yesterday that Russia was considering sending additional navy vessels to the Mediterranean. From there, presumably, they could be diverted to the Adriatic to monitor NATO vessels in the area. Sergeev did not say how many or when ships might be dispatched. But one Western agency quoted Black Sea Fleet officials as saying that two ships–an antisubmarine vessel and an escort ship–are expected to sail out over this coming weekend. No formal order, however, has yet been issued, they said (AP, April 13).
Russia now has one naval vessel in the Adriatic monitoring NATO operations there. It–a reconnaissance ship called the Liman–has reportedly positioned itself near the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. According to a Pentagon official, the Liman appears to be trying, among other things, to count the number of planes taking off from the carrier. The Russian Foreign Ministry has said that the information being gathered by the Liman is being transmitted to Moscow (Washington Post, April 11). One Russian newspaper has said that despite its unimpressive appearance, the Liman–a 27-year-old electronic intelligence vessel with a sixty-man crew–is “stuffed with the most modern equipment” and is “capable of simultaneously tracking air, surface and undersea targets” (Segodnya, April 8).
YELTSIN-LUZHKOV MEETING FEEDS RUMORS THAT LUZHKOV WILL REPLACE PRIMAKOV.