Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 135

The uneasy entry of Russian troops into the Kosovo countryside is continuing this week. Yesterday a convoy of Russian soldiers was welcomed into the Malisevo area of southwestern Kosovo by the German and Dutch peacekeepers already stationed there. The reception given by the local Kosovo Albanian population to the approximately one hundred Russian soldiers was decidedly less warm, however. There have been regular protests by the Kosovo Albanians against deployment of the Russians, and the Russian contingent yesterday reportedly arrived only half an hour after one such demonstration had ended. In nearby Orahovac, meanwhile, anti-Russian protests continued yesterday for the seventh straight day. Ethnic Albanians in the area charge that Russian nationals took part in the brutal ethnic cleansing operations carried out there by Serb police and military forces (Reuters, July 13). They are also embittered by the more general support which Moscow has given Belgrade.

In an effort to both ease the way for the Russian troops and reassure local Serbs, the commander of the U.S. peacekeeping forces in Kosovo announced yesterday that troops from the two countries would soon begin to conduct joint peacekeeping patrols. Army Brigadier General John Craddock told reporters that he had raised the issue with the Russian commander of the forces in Kosovo and had won agreement on the proposal for joint patrols. They will apparently begin once the entire contingent of Russian troops arrives. Craddock said yesterday that there are currently about fifty Russian troops in the U.S. sector. About five hundred are expected when the deployment is completed (Reuters, July 13).

A BBC report yesterday noted the sharp contrast between the well-equipped American contingent and its Russian counterpart. But the report also suggested that there is dissatisfaction among local Serbs with the protection offered thus far by the American presence. Not surprisingly, local Serbs reportedly want the Russians in and the Americans out, while ethnic Albanians in the area are calling for exactly the opposite (BBC, July 13).

In a development which could further roil relations between the Russian KFOR troops and both their NATO hosts and the ethnic Albanian population, a Russian armored personnel carrier was reported yesterday to have careened through a crowd of anti-Russian demonstrators in the U.S. sector of Kosovo. Few details were available, but an observer was reported to have said that the Russian soldiers were protecting a Serb from demonstrators who were burning the Russian flag. The Serb was said to have been shouting anti-Albanian slogans and making obscene gestures at the crowd (UPI, July 13). Their public statements welcoming the Russians notwithstanding, NATO officials have feared that the Russian military’s ardent pro-Serbian sentiments could undermine their professionalism while performing in Kosovo.

In Moscow, meanwhile, a Foreign Ministry official yesterday said that the Russian government had not yet decided whether it would send representatives to attend an upcoming G-7 meeting on rebuilding Yugoslavia (Russian agencies, July 13). Moscow has been sharply critical of those Western governments (including the United States), which have called for withholding aid to Belgrade for as long as President Slobodan Milosevic remains in power. During the eighth annual session of the parliamentary assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) last week, Moscow’s sensitivities on another issue were also in evidence. On July 10 the Russian delegation abstained from voting on a resolution dealing with Yugoslavia. The Russians objected to a U.S.-sponsored amendment to the resolution that “all countries to arrest” those indicted for war crimes by the international tribunal for former Yugoslavia (AFP, Russian agencies, July 10). Moscow has repeatedly defended Belgrade authorities against war crimes charges while simultaneously calling for top NATO officials to themselves be punished for the alliance’s air campaign in Yugoslavia.