Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 66

In other developments yesterday related to Kosovo, Russian sources said that moderate Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova had held talks in Pristina with Russia’s ambassador to Yugoslavia, Yuri Kotov. Russian news agencies reported that Rugova had called for an end to NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia; Russian diplomatic sources, meanwhile, denied reports that Rugova and Kotov had discussed a possible visit by Rugova to Moscow (Itar-Tass, April 5).

Reports out of Belgrade on April 1 indicated that Rugova had held surprise talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Some question arose in the West as to whether Rugova had acted of his own volition, or had been coerced in some way by Yugoslav authorities in Belgrade (International agencies, April 2). Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov denied those allegations in an April 2 interview (Federal News Service, April 2). Yesterday Kotov echoed these denials, telling Russian television reporters that Rugova was being protected by Serb authorities because his life was now endangered by ethnic Albanian “extremists” (Itar-Tass, April 5).

Two Russian generals–one retired and one still active–finally weighed in on the issue of Kosovo yesterday. Krasnoyarsk regional Governor Aleksandr Lebed, who is expected to run in Russia’s next presidential election, told a German magazine that Moscow was capable of stepping in and stopping NATO’s military campaign against Yugoslavia. He said that Russian President Boris Yeltsin needed to take only three steps: first, to explicitly say that the NATO actions constitute an act of aggression; second, to proclaim Yugoslavia within Russia’s zone of vital interests; and third, to set out exactly the scale of military assistance which Russia would be willing to grant Belgrade. These proclamations, Lebed said, would cause the West to break off its attacks on Yugoslavia (Itar-Tass, April 5).

The commander of Russia’s Far Eastern Military District took a less carefully reasoned approach. Colonel General Viktor Chechevatov, whose name has come up several times in the past as a possible candidate as defense minister, said that he had informed Yeltsin of his willingness to command any Russian military contingent sent to defend Yugoslavia (Ekho Moskvy, April 5).