President Boris Yeltsin warned NATO today not to send ground troops into Yugoslavia and “make it their protectorate.” “We cannot permit that,” he said. He threatened that such a development could prompt a stronger response from Russia, without specifying what action Russia might take.
NATO “wants to launch ground operations; it wants to simply seize Yugoslavia,” Yeltsin said. “We can by no means give Yugoslavia away.” His comments appeared to contradict remarks he made earlier in the day, when he said that he didn’t envision NATO sending ground troops into Yugoslavia. NATO will not “dare launch a ground operation” in Kosovo, the president was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying. “This will mean big losses. The Serbs are prepared to fight to the last man.”
Meanwhile, Gennady Seleznev, the speaker of Russia’s Duma, told the Interfax news agency that Yeltsin had ordered Russian strategic missiles to be targeted at NATO nations. Yeltsin’s spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin said he could not comment on the report. The chief of staff of the Strategic Missile Forces, Colonel General Anatoly Perminov, said that no such order had been received.
A Western correspondent listened to a tape recording of the Interfax interview. In it, Seleznev was asked whether it was true that Yeltsin had said at a meeting with the speaker that he had ordered missiles targeted on those countries fighting Belgrade. Many of the nineteen NATO member states have forces in action. “Yes,” Seleznev replied. “In the direction of those countries which today are fighting Yugoslavia.” Asked whether that meant that missiles were to be pointed against all NATO countries, Seleznev said: “Those countries which are fighting. Not all [NATO states] are fighting” (AP, Reuters, Russian agencies, April 9).
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