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Russia/Yugoslavia: Yeltsin Avoids Impeachment; NATO Attacks Ground Forces


Brussels, 16 May 1999 (RFE/RL) - In the Yugoslav conflict, NATO says it has focused its air attacks over the past 24 hours on Serb ground forces in south and southeast Kosovo. In Moscow yesterday, Russian President Boris Yeltsin survived an attempt to impeach him in the Russian lower house of parliament. The head of the State Duma commission which organized tha ballot said all five motions to start proceedings to remove Yeltsin from office failed to gain the necessary 300 votes.

A NATO statement this morning said planes hit targets particularly in the areas of Junik, Prahovo, Boljevac, West Rogovo and the Kosovo capital Pristina. Six tanks and armored vehicles were struck, as well as artillery pieces, other military vehicles, troop concentrations and military storage and command and control facilities.

Among other targets were military radio relay sites, highway bridges, a border post at Knjazevac, a munition storage site, a military storage area, army barracks and a command post at Pristina, and oil storage sites. Strikes against electrical power supplies also continued.

At a separate British military briefing, Admiral John Abbott said that the raids in the last 24 hours had been among the most sustained since the air campaign began. A British Defence Ministry official John Spellar said three British infantry battle groups -- up to 2,300 men -- were now being readied for deployment in Macedonia as part of Britain's contribution to support humanitarian operations. Spellar said there are no plans for an opposed intervention by ground forces in Kosovo.

Earlier, the alliance vowed to intensify its air campaign despite the risk that the Serbs might be using civilian "human shields" around targets. That concern follows the reported killing of scores of refugees at the village of Korisa on Thursday during an attack on what NATO described as a legitimate military target.

In London, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said the alliance aims to get Kosovo refugees home before the winter, and will continue its campaign with this in mind. In a BBC interview, Solana, referring to possible Serbian atrocities, said that the full truth of what was happening in Kosovo would only be known when troops were able to escort the refugees home.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook say the "brutality" of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic makes them more determined than ever to continue NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Their comments come in a joint editorial in today's Washington Post.

Meanwhile in Macedonia, the UN refugee agency says some 600 more Kosovo refugees arrived by train today. The group was twice the size of the crowd of refugees who rached Macedonia, also by train, yesterday -- the largest number in ten days.

Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said the group of ethnic Albanians arriving today boarded a train in Urosevac as did those arriving on the previous day.

Redmond said the refugees reported being forced to stay in their homes by Serbian police before being told to leave. He said others had reported making up to three attempts to leave but had been turned back each time. He added that the first group he talked to today told him the situation in Kosovo villages was extremely tense and food scarce.

In Moscow yesterday, Russian President Boris Yeltsin survived an attempt to impeach him in the Russian lower house of parliament. The head of the State Duma commission which organized tha ballot said all five motions to start proceedings to remove Yeltsin from office failed to gain the necessary 300 votes.

The closest lawmakers came to impeaching Yeltsin was on the charge of starting the 1994-96 Chechen war, which fell 17 votes short of the 300 votes needed to begin impeachment proceedings.

The impeachment motions also included charges against Yeltsin for his role in the breakup of the Soviet Union and in sending tanks against the parliament in 1993.

There has been no reaction to the votes so far from the Kremlin. Earlier, the Kremlin said Yeltsin was at his countryside residence after having undergone a routine medical examinationm this morning at Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital.
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