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Russia Condemns NATO’s Airstrikes

June 8, 1999 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) _ President Boris Yeltsin harshly condemned NATO’s stepped up bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, but Moscow still agreed today to a plan that would put the alliance at the core of a Kosovo peacekeeping operation.

Yeltsin’s strong statements suggested the Russian leader was not ready to sign on to the plan being negotiated in Germany by the foreign ministers of the Group of Eight _ the world’s seven richest democracies plus Russia.

NATO’s air campaign ``has trampled upon the foundations of international law and the United Nations charter,″ Yeltsin said in the Kremlin.


But shortly afterward, Russia reached agreement with the other G-8 countries, according to U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin. The plan is intended as a draft of a U.N. Security Council resolution that would authorize a peacekeeping force for Kosovo with NATO as the anchor.

Yeltsin has conspicuously avoided commenting directly on a peace plan for Kosovo that was brokered last week by his envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin. And there was no immediate response from the Kremlin today after the agreement was announced in Germany.

Yeltsin spoke by phone with President Clinton today about the Kosovo peace plan, the Interfax news agency reported.

In Germany, Russia’s Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said, ``Naturally, we will support this text in the Security Council.″

``The most important thing for us is that the resolution, if it is achieved, will end the war in the Balkans,″ Ivanov said. Details on Russia’s role in the peacekeeping operation still needed to be negotiated, he said.

Chernomyrdin’s shuttle diplomacy helped bring NATO and Yugoslavia to the verge of an agreement, but his Russian critics say he bowed to NATO demands and sold out Yugoslavia, a Russian ally.

Russia would like the United Nations, rather than NATO, to be in charge of any peacekeeping operation. But Rubin said today’s agreement in Germany confirmed that NATO would be at the core of the peacekeeping force, expected to number around 50,000 troops.

Chernomyrdin said any Russian peacekeepers would be under Russian command, and Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said the Russian contingent could be as large as 10,000.

Sergeyev also said that any Russian contingent in Kosovo would not be subordinate to NATO.

However, there was no immediate word from the G-8 meeting on what role Russia might play in the peacekeeping force.

Russia wants NATO to stop bombing before the Security Council approves any peacekeeping plans.

``The aggression against sovereign Yugoslavia has seriously worsened the international climate,″ Yeltsin said. ``The world has seen another attempt to establish the dictatorship of force. Russia resolutely rejects such an approach.″

Yeltsin has regularly made such remarks since NATO’s bombing campaign began in March. The Russian leader may speak with President Clinton about the Kosovo crisis today, Chernomyrdin said. The two presidents spoke by telephone Monday.