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Yugoslavia: Russia's Primakov In Belgrade To Halt Air Strikes

Belgrade, 30 March 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov arrived in Belgrade today in a high-level diplomatic bid to halt NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia. He is to meet with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic later today. Russia has been highly critical of the NATO air strikes, which continued for a sixth night Monday. In his annual address to Russia's parliament today, Russian President Boris Yeltsin reiterated Moscow's stance that the use of military force to resolve the Kosovo crisis is inacceptable to Russia. He also said that now was not the time for emotions and that Russia will not let itself be dragged into a military confrontation.

Correspondents say Western officials are not optimistic but will be watching Primakov's initiative closely. State Department spokesman James Rubin said yesterday he hoped Primakov can persuade Milosevic to stop his attacks on Kosovar Albanians and commit himself to a peace settlement.

NATO overnight launched a sixth night of air strikes, concentrating on industrial and military targets near Belgrade and the airport at Montenegro's capital, Podgorica.

There were no confirmed reports of casualties or damage. Yugoslav officials are not providing casualty figures.

Serb television reported that a NATO warplane, possibly a British Harrier jet, had been shot down, but NATO denied the report.

In Kosovo, displaced ethnic Albanians continue to flood the province's borders with Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania. As many as 100,000 refugees have now crossed the border seeking safety from a renewed Serb offensive.

In Washington yesterday, the Pentagon said it was increasing NATO air power in the region. Spokesman Ken Bacon said the U.S. would send five more B-1 bombers and other aircraft.