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Yugoslavia: Russia Blames Ethnic Albanians For Kosovo Violence

Moscow, 20 July 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Russia has called on ethnic Albanian separatists in Serbia's Kosovo province to immediately cease fire and return to the negotiating table. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said that despite all the attempts by the international community to improve the situation in Kosovo, it is still deteriorating. Rakhmanin said the Kosovo Albanian fighters were to blame for this through their provocative acts. Russia is a traditional ally of the Serbs.

Albania today asked Greece to use its influence with the Serbian authorities to bring an end to the fighting. The request came at a meeting in Tirana between Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo. Pangalos said he would meet Kosovo representaives and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Greece is a traditional friend of Orthodox Christian Serbia.

In The Hague, Serbian opposition leaders met U.S. special envoy Richard Gelbard. The Serbs said they would press Gelbard to have the United States take a lead in helping end the Kosovo conflict.

Meanwhile today, Serb police are claiming victory in a weekend battle for control of the central Kosovo town of Orahovac, but reporters on the scene say house-to-house fighting with shelling is still raging.

Both sides -- the Serb authorities and the ethnic Albanian rebels -- claimed yesterday they controlled most of Orahovac. However, explosions and machine-gun fire echoed throughout surrounding hills and several buildings burned intensely. Orahovac, with a normal population of 20,000, is the largest town yet caught in the five-month ethnic conflict.

Hundreds of refugees streamed into hills in the Orahovac area yesterday, about 50 kilometers southwest of the provincial capital Pristina, in a desperate attempt to stay out of harm's way.

Figures provided by the two sides indicated more than 100 people died in fighting in Orahovac and a series of violent border clashes over the weekend.