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Yugoslavia: Russian Envoy To Mediate Talks On Kosovo Crisis

Moscow, 3 August 1998 (RFE/RL) - Russia's Foreign Ministry said today that two Russian diplomats will fly to Yugoslavia on Wednesday to mediate talks on the crisis in Serbia's Kosovo province. Reports from Kosovo say fighting is continuing today between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian separatists, despite claims from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic last week that a Serbian offensive in the province is over. Senior U.S. envoy Christopher Hill called the new offensive a setback to American and European peace efforts and said "we are on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe."

Interfax quotes a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying that Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasyevsky and special envoy Boris Maiorsky will meet the leaders of Yugoslavia, Serbia, Montenegro and the ethnic Albanian community in Kosovo.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said today that at least 30,000 people have been displaced by a Serbian security force offensive in Kosovo during the past week. A UNHCR representative in Pristina, Mans Nyberg, says a total of about 180,000 Kosovars have been displaced during the last five months of fighting in Kosovo.

Also today the Montenegrin government, which together with Serbia makes up the Yugoslav federation, said it is cutting off all contacts with the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Montenegro said the boycott will continue until Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic steps down and a successor from Montenegro's reformist camp replaces him. Bulatovic, a staunch Milosevic supporter, was president of Montenegro until his defeat in May elections. After his defeat, Milosevic named him to the post of Yugoslav prime minister.

Montenegro's labor minister, Predrag Drecun, warned that if Milosevic does not respond to this ultimatum, the reformists could propose a referendum on Montenegro's secession from Yugoslavia.