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Yugoslavia: NATO Confirms 200 Troops En Route To Kosovo

Brussels, 11 June 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO has confirmed that some 200 Russian troops previously stationed in Bosnia-Herzegovina have crossed into Serbia and are moving towards Kosovo. In Sarajevo, NATO spokesman Major David Scanlon said the Russian soldiers would return to Bosnia, where they had been stationed as peacekeepers, after preparing for the arrival of a more permanent Russian contingent in Kosovo. Scanlon described the Russian move as "not unexpected," saying the Russian commander had been ordered by his superiors to deploy an advance party in Kosovo. A report this morning by the independent Belgrade news agency Beta said a convoy of some 1,000 Russian troops transported by armored vehicles and trucks had crossed the Bosnian-Serbian border on their way to Kosovo. Beta said the Russian vehicles were marked KFOR, the insignia of the Kosovo peacekeeping force.

Earlier in the day, Russian government spokesmen denied Russian troops were headed for Kosovo. But a report from the Interfax news agency said 1,000 Russian troops would fly to Kosovo tomorrow. In Washington, U.S. Vice President Al Gore said that the U.S. had been given what he called "absolute assurances" that the Russians would not move into Kosovo unilaterally.

Speaking on U.S. television, Gore said the Russians would not enter Kosovo until arrangements had been worked out for their participation in a unified command.

Two days of U.S.-Russian military talks in Moscow have sought, unsuccessfully so far, to work out an arrangement for Russian participation in the international peace force for Kosovo. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who has led U.S. efforts to attain Russian cooperation on Kosovo, today abruptly returned to Moscow on orders from U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright after leaving the Russian capital this morning.