Russian defense minister Igor Sergeev is in Maastricht, The Netherlands, for an informal two-day gathering of NATO defense chiefs. The Defense Ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland are also there. Yesterday, Sergeev and NATO officials each tried to put their own spin on Russian participation in the seizure of four Bosnian Serb television transmitters. Troops of the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) took control of the transmitters on the morning of September 30, following a request from international mediator Carlos Westendorp. A NATO official announced that Russian combat troops serving with SFOR had been deployed to prevent any public interference with the takeover, adding that NATO was "very satisfied" with the Russian cooperation. Moscow in the past has been critical of SFOR moves against the Bosnian Serbs, however, and Sergeev denied that his troops had played any sort of major role in the September 30 events. "If observation from two posts is considered participation," he said, "then we participated." He added that the Russian commander on the scene had learned of the operation only a few hours before it got underway.
Sergeev also failed to announce the name of a permanent Russian military representative at NATO political headquarters in Brussels. He said that the appointment was "on Boris Yeltsin’s desk." There has long been speculation that former defense minister Pavel Grachev would be named to this post, and there was even a rumor this week — denied by the Defense Ministry — that Grachev would accompany Sergeev to Maastricht. Russia has maintained a military representative at NATO’s European military headquarters in Mons, Belgium. (Russian and Western media, September 30, October 1)