NATO: Yugoslav army now on defensive in Kosovo
April 10, 1999
BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- NATO air raids have forced the Yugoslav army into a defensive posture in Kosovo, where it is hiding tanks and armored vehicles between village houses in an attempt to protect them from missiles, NATO officials said Saturday.
"Overall, the Yugoslav forces appeared to be focusing on defensive and force protection measures against NATO attacks," said Col. Konrad Freytag, a NATO military spokesman.
Meanwhile, international aid efforts have improved the refugee situation and prevented Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic from upsetting the stability of neighboring countries by sending a flood of ethnic Albanians out of the province, NATO said.
Seventeen days of bombing have halved the amount of fuel available for the Yugoslav army, severely disrupted military communications and intelligence and damaged roads and bridges needed to resupply troops in the field, Freytag said.
He said that targets of NATO's latest overnight raids included Yugoslav army and Serb special police forces barracks, two oil depots and a broadcasting facility in Pristina, Kosovo's capital.
Freytag said the broadcasting facility was used for military communications.
Earlier, Yugoslav charge d'affaires Vladislav Jovanovic told CNN that the facility was for a television transmitter and called the NATO attack a violation of conventions on press freedoms.
Bad weather forced the cancellation of three out of four planned waves of attacks, according to NATO. The remaining wave was carried out by cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships in the Adriatic Sea.
Allied ministers are scheduled to meet Monday in Brussels to discuss the progress of the campaign against Yugoslavia, which aims to end fighting between Serb forces and ethnic Albanians guerrillas in Kosovo.
NATO and British military officials said Saturday the bombardment will continue until Milosevic agrees to all the terms of a peace plan outlined for Kosovo. Those terms include an end to attacks on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops and the admission of a NATO-led military force to the province to oversee a plan for its autonomy.
British Armed Forces Minister Doug Henderson said Russia gave new assurances on Saturday that it would not intervene militarily in the Balkans conflict.
Russia has strong historic ties to the Serbs, who make up the majority of the population in the Yugoslav federation. It has strenuously objected to the NATO campaign, and Russian President Boris Yeltsin warned Friday that the conflict could lead to a world war.
But on Saturday, Russia's foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, assured British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook "that Russia had no intention of becoming involved in any confrontation in the Balkans and no wish to see any escalation," Henderson said. "The foreign secretary welcomed that assurance."
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is scheduled to meet Ivanov in the Norwegian capital of Oslo on Tuesday.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said allied relief efforts in Albania and Macedonia have helped not only the Kosovo refugees, but the governments of those countries, which were reeling from the volume of humanity pouring across their frontiers.
"We've prevented Milosevic from using refugees as a weapon to destabilize neighboring countries," Shea said.
The commander of NATO forces in Macedonia, Lt. Gen. Sir Mike Jackson, said Saturday that his troops are ready to turn over the administration of refugee camps to civilian aid agencies.
Jackson's contingent, which will serve as a peacekeeping force in Kosovo if a cease-fire with Yugoslavia is reached, will continue to provide security for the camps.
About 1,500 ethnic Albanians streamed from Kosovo into Albania in a convoy of tractors, jeeps and other vehicles Friday, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
It was the first mass exodus of refugees into Albania since the checkpoint was reportedly closed three days ago. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians have been displaced by the fighting in Kosovo.
Shea said the latest refugees bring with them "the usual story" of being forced to give up their identity papers and valuables before being marched across the border.
He noted that Sadako Ogata, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, described the reports of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo as worse than those that came out of Bosnia.
"She is the person to know these things better than anybody," Shea said.
Resettling the refugees could be difficult. The sticking point in failed peace talks before the airstrikes was Milosevic's refusal to allow a NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
"Everyone agrees, with one exception in Belgrade, we need NATO troops to go in and secure order and security in Kosovo," said William Walker, who led the OSCE observer mission in Kosovo before the bombing began.
The OSCE monitors left Kosovo before the NATO raids started.
"These people won't go back without troops. I won't go back," Walker said.
Correspondents Bill Hemmer, Brent Sadler, Alessio Vinci and Matthew Chance contributed to this report.
Serbs reportedly planting land mines to create Kosovo 'no man's land'
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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