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Yugoslavia: Ethnic Albanians, Roma Protest Russian Peacekeepers


Orahovac, Serbia, 24 August 1999 (RFE/RL) - Dutch peacekeepers hope to meet today with Russian troops and ethnic Albanians in a bid to end a standoff over the deployment of Russian troops in southern Kosovo. Our correspondent in Orahovac reports this morning that hundreds of ethnic Albanians and Roma are maintaining a kilometer-long roadblock of cars, tractors, and rocks on the main road from Pristina to the town of Orahovac. The protesters are holding signs saying "NATO Yes, Russians No" and "We Don't Like Russians." The roadblock, which was set up yesterday, has delayed a contingent of Russian peacekeepers from entering Orahovac. The Russians say they are prepared to wait until the situation is resolved. The Russians are to replace a Dutch force which has patrolled the town since KFOR peacekeeping troops moved into Kosovo in mid-June. Dutch Major Marcel van Weerd said he hoped Dutch and Russian officers would meet today with ethnic Albanian leaders for talks aimed at ending the problem. The Dutch say that in any case, no force will be used to settle the matter. Ethnic Albanians across Kosovo oppose a Russian presence in the province, saying the Russians favor Serbs.
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