Chernomyrdin persists in quest for Kosovo peace
He meets with Milosevic in Belgrade
May 28, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Russian special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin arrived in Belgrade Friday for more Kosovo peace talks with President Slobodan Milosevic, offering to keep negotiating despite a U.N. tribunal's indictment of the Yugoslav leader on war crimes charges.
As he arrived in the Yugoslav capital, electrical power was out in much of the city and across Serbia after the latest round of NATO attacks.
"The most important thing is to have the bombing halted so that political negotiations can continue," the state-run Tanjug news agency quoted Chernomyrdin as saying. Asked about his upcoming talks, he said: "The results should be an end to the war and bombing."
Chernomyrdin said Thursday that the indictment of Milosevic and four senior Yugoslav officials Thursday would complicate efforts to end the war prompted by the conflict between separatist ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and their Serb rulers.
"We warned them (the tribunal). We requested them not to do it," he said.
On Friday in Brussels, NATO repeated its position that the strikes will continue until Yugoslavia agrees to the alliance's conditions, and that none of them were negotiable.
"We are not talking about negotiating with President Milosevic. Everybody understands that. There is no negotiation here. The five conditions are the five conditions," NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said.
"The real issue is what message Mr. Milosevic is receiving, and what he is preparing to do," he said in Brussels on Friday. "That is an open question, one that Mr. Chernomyrdin with be exploring in Belgrade today."
In Washington, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told CNN that Milosevic's indictment was not a matter of negotiation for any proposed agreement to end airstrikes.
"No one has the authority to give him amnesty," she said Thursday. "The Russians voted for the tribunal. This is an action taken by a tribunal, an independent prosecutor representing the international community."
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday the indictment was "purely politically motivated," and questioned why the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had not investigated NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia. Officials in Belgrade say the attacks have killed thousands of people, many of them civilians.
On day 65 of the airstrikes, NATO increased the number of missions flown to 792, which alliance officials on Friday said were the highest number yet.
NATO warplanes, taking advantage of clear skies, attacked Serb forces in Kosovo, including at least 20 artillery pieces, two tanks, an armored personnel carrier, two mortar positions, seven anti-artillery pieces and two multiple-rocket-launcher systems.
The bombs hit highway bridges in a number of areas, including Raska, Popovac and Pertate. Military headquarters and army barracks in Pristina, a vehicle storage site at Nis, and more than 10 radio or television communications sites also were struck.
NATO missiles smashed more of Serbia's electrical network overnight, knocking out two major power distribution stations in Belgrade and plunging most of the capital into darkness, Serbian media and residents reported.
Witnesses said flames and smoke poured from an electricity distribution station in Belgrade's Bezanijska Kosa district. That facility distributes power from the Obrenovac generating station southwest of the capital.
Among the casualties of the blackout was Belgrade's main hospital, the Emergency Medical Care Center.
Tanjug said three people died and several were wounded in an attack on Aleksinac, near Nis, that destroyed 10 houses and damaged about 30.
Earlier, the Beta news agency reported that two people were killed and two wounded when a bridge over the Jablanica river in Lebane district in southern Serbia was attacked.
Local media also reported blackouts and interrupted water supplies in the industrial town of Pancevo, northeast of the capital, and in Serbia's second largest city, Novi Sad, in the northwest.
The airstrikes came a day after NATO was granted authority to attack a broader range of targets. A senior U.S. official told CNN they included communications centers and the residences of top Milosevic aids.
In other developments:
Correspondents Matthew Chance and Martin Savidge contributed to this report.
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