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Yugoslavia: Russian Envoy To Press For Kosovo Ceasefire

Belgrade, 5 August 1998 (RFE/RL) - Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasyevsky arrived in Belgrade today at the start of a mission to press for an end to fighting in Serbia's Kosovo province. Itar-Tass quotes Afanasyevsky as saying he will press for a ceasefire between Serb forces and ethnic-Albanian separatists of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). He said he would also push for talks between Belgrade and leaders of Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian majority.

Afanasyevsky said he would hold talks today with Serb officials and tomorrow with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He then plans to travel to Kosovo's provincial capital Pristina for talks with Kosovar Albanian leaders.

Moscow has joined western governments in calling for talks aimed at giving Kosovo autonomy, but not independence. But Russia has opposed suggestions of outside force to end the fighting.

Meanwhile, two EU officials are being sent to the town of Orahovac 50 kilometers southwest of Pristina to investigate reports of mass graves. The town was taken by Serb forces in fighting last month.

Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, and British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook both said that if the reports are true, it will require an international response. The EU's Kosovo mission spokesman Walter Ebenberger said similar reports have not been verified in the past.