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Bosnia-Herzegovina: Interior Ministry Presses Charges Over Riots

Sarajevo, 12 April 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The Interior Ministry of Bosnia's Muslim-Croat Federation today pressed criminal charges against two local police officials for failure to prevent last week's violence in the town of Mostar. The two cantonal police chiefs -- Dragan Mandic and Vinko Culjak -- were accused of breaking the law by failing to use police reinforcements to prevent violence. An Interior Ministry statement said they "obviously acted dishonestly while exercising their duties and powers."

More than 30 international peacekeepers were injured in last Friday's (6 April) rioting in the southern Bosnian towns of Mostar and Grude.

The violence erupted when local and international officials took over 11 branches of a local bank suspected of supporting Bosnian Croat nationalists trying to establish their own state.

Separately, Russia's defense minister today said the killing of a Russian peacekeeper in Kosovo yesterday was "confirmation" of Russian claims that KFOR forces were lax in attempts to reduce the allegedly large arsenal of ethnic Albanian fighters.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia "does not intend to tolerate" terrorist acts against its troops in Kosovo. He said Russian troops' security would be stepped up, including by deployment of more armored vehicles.

Russia blamed yesterday's killing on ethnic Albanian gunmen.

KFOR Commander General Thorstein Skiaker said he is still unsure who committed the attack, but promised a "robust response."

The Russian soldier was shot dead while on a routine mission near the town of Zuja. The attack took place not far from the five-kilometer buffer zone separating Kosovo from southern Serbia. The Serbian government-run press center in Bujanovac described the attack as an ambush by ethnic Albanian militants.

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson has condemned yesterday's killing. In a statement, Robertson said NATO "will not tolerate such attacks on KFOR personnel."

Robertson said he had spoken with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov about the incident.

Three Russian soldiers have been killed since Russian troops began peacekeeping operations in June, 1999, after NATO's bombing campaign of Yugoslavia ended.