NATO strikes Yugoslavia as more planes ordered
April 11, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- NATO officials confirmed another day of strikes over Yugoslavia on Sunday, some of them in the area of Pristina, the provincial capital of Kosovo.
Although weather over the area was poor, sources said "strike" aircraft found holes in the cloud cover overnight, and more strikes were expected during daylight hours Sunday, when the Serbian Orthodox church celebrates Easter.
NATO beefed up its air armada Saturday in preparation for more attacks in the Balkans.
U.S. officials announced plans to put another 82 planes into the allied air campaign, and other countries were expected to follow suit quickly, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said Saturday.
NATO raids have hit roads and bridges needed to resupply troops in the field, halved the amount of fuel available for the Yugoslav army, and severely disrupted communications and intelligence, allied military spokesman Col. Konrad Freytag said Saturday.
Yugoslav commanders in Kosovo are parking tanks and armored vehicles between village houses in an attempt to protect them from missiles, Freytag said.
Worsening weather grounded three of four planned waves of strike planes on Saturday, Freytag said. But the attacks, which included cruise missiles launched from ships in the Adriatic Sea, have forced the Yugoslav army into a defensive posture in Kosovo, he said.
"Overall, the Yugoslav forces appeared to be focusing on defensive and force protection measures against NATO attacks," he said.
By late in the day, air raid sirens sounded across Belgrade and hundreds of demonstrators gathered on a main bridge in the capital to protest airstrikes on bridges throughout the country.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered on the Branko bridge over the Sava River, which divides old and new Belgrade. Pop music concerts and speeches on key bridges around the city have become almost nightly rituals of defiance in the Yugoslav capital.
NATO says the bombardment will continue until Milosevic agrees to all the terms of a peace plan outlined for Kosovo, which aims to end fighting between Serb forces and ethnic Albanian rebels in Kosovo.
The terms include an end to attacks on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops and the admission of a NATO-led peacekeeping force. Yugoslav authorities have consistently refused to allow an international contingent on its soil.
Meanwhile, a Yugoslav diplomat Saturday denounced as "slanderous" accusations of atrocities against civilians in the Serbian province of Kosovo.
"It is totally one slanderous accusation that we have to do anything with that," Vladislav Jovanovic, the Yugoslav charge d'affaires at the United Nations, said Saturday. "We are not at all turned against our people."
On Saturday, Serbian television showed pictures of moderate Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova meeting with top Belgrade officials -- the fourth time he has been seen on TV here since the NATO campaign began more than two weeks ago.
Yugoslav authorities have said Rugova plays a pivotal role in negotiating a peaceful settlement to the Kosovo crisis. NATO is skeptical whether Rugova is free to speak his mind -- and says officials may be coercing him into making positive statements.
The NATO air armada arrayed against Yugoslavia will soon include some 700 aircraft, including heavy bombers based in Britain, fighter-bombers flying from Italy and strike planes on U.S., British and French carriers in the Adriatic Sea.
The new U.S. forces coming into the fight include 24 F-16CJ anti-radar aircraft, four more A-10 ground attack planes, six EA-6B electronic warfare planes, 41 aerial tankers and seven transports.
"Basically, it will allow us to increase the intensity of the air campaign over Kosovo and Yugoslavia," Bacon told reporters at the Pentagon.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said NATO bombs and missiles have badly damaged the central command system for Yugoslavia's air defense and wiped out about half of the country's fleet of top-of-the-line fighter jets, the Russian-built MiG-29.
"In the last two weeks we have inflicted a hell of a lot of damage, quite frankly, on the Yugoslav armed forces," he said.
NATO unity appeared strong Saturday as top allied diplomats prepared for a Monday meeting in Brussels.
Art Eggleton, Canada's minister of National Defense, voiced his country's continuing support and involvement in NATO airstrikes on Saturday after a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen at the Pentagon.
And fears that Russia might intervene on behalf of its historic allies, the Serbs, seemed to ease slightly Saturday.
Russia 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," British Armed Forces Minister Doug Henderson said.
Serbs reportedly planting land mines to create Kosovo 'no man's land'
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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