Moscow, 21 June 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said today that the presence of Russian troops in Kosovo could end the flight of thousands of Serbs from the Yugoslav province.
Russia will send up to 3,600 peacekeepers to Kosovo. They will be deployed in the U.S., French, and German sectors, but in areas where mainly Serbs live. Fearing reprisals from ethnic Albanians, About 50,000 Serbs fled Kosovo soon after Yugoslav forces started leaving the province to open the way for NATO peacekeepers and an end to alliance air attacks.
Russia has complained NATO has been slow to disarm the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK).Yesterday, NATO and the UCK signed an agreement under which the UCK fighters vow to hand over all automatic weapons within 90 days. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said today the UCK must abide by the timetable on disarming.
The White House said today that UCK political leader Hashim Thaci assured U.S. President Bill Clinton during a telephone conversation late yesterday that the UCK was committed to protecting the human rights of all minorities in Kosovo.