Russian President Boris Yeltsin dispatched an envoy to Belgrade yesterday for what was described as a continuation of Moscow’s efforts to settle peacefully the crisis in Kosovo. Igor Ivanov, a Russian deputy foreign minister, is scheduled to meet today with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian President Milan Milutinovic. Among the messages he will reportedly carry to the Serb leaders is an explanation for Moscow’s vote on March 31 in favor of a UN resolution leveling an arms embargo on Yugoslavia. (See Monitor, April 1) Russian leaders have been steady supporters of the Belgrade authorities in the Kosovo crisis and on other issues. Moscow had earlier indicated it would oppose the UN resolution.
In defense of Russia’s position, Ivanov said in Belgrade yesterday that Moscow did not consider the UN resolution to be either "anti-Yugoslav" or a punitive measure aimed at Belgrade. He pointed out that the resolution also includes provisions on the territorial integrity of Serbia and Yugoslavia — provisions upon which both Belgrade and Moscow have insisted. Further, it condemns both terrorism and weapons supplies to terrorists. Moscow has joined Belgrade in describing the actions of Kosovar Albanian separatists as terrorist. Moscow has also emphasized the need not to stop the flow of arms to Serbian authorities, but to ensure that Kosovar Albanians are not able to get weaponry from abroad.
Ivanov also confirmed what he said is acting Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov’s position in favor of OSCE mediation of the Kosovo crisis. That would seem to indicate something of a shift in Russia’s position on the issue. Moscow earlier had warned against internationalization of the conflict. It argued instead that Kosovo was a domestic issue — to be resolved without foreign interference by authorities in Belgrade. Ivanov appeared yesterday to redefine Moscow’s definition of internationalization. He pointed to Russia’s success in removing from the UN resolution wording to the effect that the situation in Kosovo threatens peace in the world and regional stability. That, he said, proves that Russia had defeated efforts to internationalize the crisis. (Itar-Tass, April 2)
The same point was made yesterday by a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman in Moscow. To underscore Moscow’s continued support for Belgrade, the spokesman also reiterated Russia’s opposition to the imposition of any additional sanctions on Yugoslavia. Enforced sanctions, he claimed, and particularly economic sanctions, would have a negative impact on the Balkan region and other countries. (Xinhua, April 1) The United States has led calls for additional sanctions on Yugoslavia, arguing — unlike Russia — that forceful action by the world community against Belgrade is necessary to ensure that the conflict in Kosovo does not spread throughout the region.
Kremlin Speaks Up for Start II Ratification.