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Yugoslavia: Russia Still Seeking To Mediate Crisis

Belgrade, 4 October 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Russian officials say they are continuing efforts to mediate in the Yugoslav crisis. President Vladimir Putin's foreign policy adviser, Sergei Prikhodko, said Russian officials remain in contact with the Yugoslav authorities as well as with opposition presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica. But there has been no conclusive response so far from either Kostunica or President Slobodan Milosevic to an offer from Putin to hold talks on the standoff in Moscow. The U.S. State Department said yesterday that it would expect Russia to turn Milosevic over to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague should he visit Moscow. Milosevic has been indicted by the tribunal for alleged Serbian atrocities in Kosovo.

The political crisis in Yugoslavia continues to deepen, with the authorities and opposition locked in an increasingly tense stalemate over contested election results.

As opposition supporters pressed on with a second day of strikes and transport blockades, the Serbian authorities yesterday vowed to punish any subversive activity. The authorities also issued arrest orders for opposition leaders involved in organizing a five-day-old strike at Serbia's largest coal mine.

The workers at the Kolubara mine have refused a direct order by Yugoslav Army chief Nebojsa Pavkovic to return to work to avert the possibility of major power outages across Serbia.

Tens of thousands of people were reported to have attended rallies in Belgrade, Novi Sad, and elsewhere to demand that Milosevic accept his defeat to Kostunica in last week's presidential election. The opposition has rejected a second round vote scheduled for this Sunday, arguing Kostunica won outright in the first round.