January 5, 1996
Web posted at: 3:20 p.m. EST (2020 GMT)
MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russian troops will soon be on their way to Bosnia after a vote Friday by Russian legislators to approve their participation in NATO's peacekeeping mission.
The upper chamber of Russia's parliament voted 137-2 to send 1,600 troops into Bosnia. The troops should be in place by February 5.
Russian participation in the NATO operation was a question mark earlier in the peace process, when Russian military leaders flatly refused to put their troops under NATO command. Talks between U.S. officials and the Russians, however, worked out a deal that put a Russian general -- Leonty Shevtsov -- in charge of Russian troops.
"It is not the defense ministry which needs this operation," Shevtsov said. "It is Russia as a European state which needs it."
Most of the Russian brigade's officers -- largely from the 98th and 76th paratroop divisions -- have extensive combat experience in Afghanistan and Chechnya. The Russians are scheduled to patrol cease-fire zones in Brcko, Zvornik and Tuzla with U.S. soldiers.
Just outside Sarajevo, Italian troops fired NATO's first shots on Thursday, returning fire that wounded one of their own. Cpl. Elio Sbordoni was the first NATO soldier to be wounded by hostile fire. He was shot while on guard duty at Italian headquarters in Vogosca, a small town north of Sarajevo.
Sbordoni's comrades fired "four or five rounds," according to Lt. Col. Salvatore Iaconoe, "in order to recover a soldier who had been hit by rifle fire."
Iaconoe, a spokesman for Italy's NATO troops, said that the bullet that struck Sbordoni was fired from about 100 yards away with a high-powered rifle. Sbordoni took cover under a car until he was rescued.
A NATO spokesman, Lt. Col. Mark Rayner, called the Italian troops' response to the attack "quick and positive."
Five other soldiers -- four British and one U.S. -- have been injured in mine blasts since NATO took over the Bosnian mission from the United Nations on December 20.
Elsewhere, a Bosnian government minister told the Associated Press on Friday that Bosnian Serbs are still holding three Bosnian civilians after releasing 16 others on Thursday.
NATO spokesman Rayner could not confirm the additional detainees. "As far as we're concerned, all prisoners were released," he said. "We hope this incident is closed."
Some of the 16 who were released Thursday -- after being detained up to two weeks -- complained of mistreatment by their captors, but others said they were treated well.
NATO, which had earlier encouraged Bosnians to explore areas of Sarajevo closed to them during the war, was less encouraging after the release.
"You cannot expect ... absolute freedom of movement for all personnel, all civilians ... to take root immediately," said Maj. Gen. Michael Willcocks, chief of the rapid reaction force in the Bosnian capital. "We've just emerged from a bloody civil war."
In Mostar, Bosnia, shots fired from the Croatian side of the divided city wounded two Bosnian policemen, but a European Union administrator said that intervention from the NATO force was unnecessary.
"Do not throw oil on the fire," said Hans Koschnick. "We are trying to calm things down but we are not in a good situation."
The shooting was the latest in a series of incidents that began with the killing of a Bosnian youth by Croat police on New Year's Day.
And in Zagreb, Croatia, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees resumed transportation of humanitarian aid to central Bosnia after settling a dispute over taxes.
Local Croats attempted to impose a per-truck tax on the U.N.'s relief convoys passing into Bosnian territory near Mostar, but the Bosnian Croat agriculture minister reversed his earlier call for payment and declared that the UNHCR need not pay the taxes.
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