Russian envoy 'very satisfied' with Milosevic talks
May 28, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Although no breakthrough in the Kosovo conflict seemed imminent, Russia's special envoy to the Balkans said he was "very satisfied" after nine hours of talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on Friday.
The visit by former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin went ahead despite Milosevic's indictment Thursday by the U.N. war crimes tribunal on charges of murdering, deporting and persecuting ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Russian officials had objected to the indictment, saying it could undermine peace talks.
Chernomyrdin said he made enough progress in his latest talks with Milosevic that he expected to return next week with the European Union's envoy, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, in search of a diplomatic solution to the Kosovo conflict.
I'm very pleased with this visit. We spoke in great detail about all our business, about where we stand in our negotiations," Chernomyrdin said.
"We face the most difficult negotiations in the next few days," he added.
Belgrade radio and the Yugoslav Press Agency reported that Yugoslavia had accepted the principles of a peace plan proposed by Russia and the world's top seven industrialized nations. Those principles provide for the withdrawal of Yugoslav military forces from Kosovo and the return of ethnic Albanians to their homes under the protection of a U.N.-sanctioned "international and security presence."
In a sign Belgrade may be willing to negotiate on two key sticking points, Chernomyrdin said the two sides discussed conditions of a pullout of Yugoslav army and police troops from Kosovo and the introduction of a U.N. contingent.
However, a statement by Milosevic's office said Yugoslavia's "sovereignty and territorial integrity" remained inviolable, signaling that Belgrade was still opposed to any international force in Kosovo that is heavily armed and has a strong NATO component.
A National Security Council adviser in Washington said the Yugoslav statement did not appear to represent any breakthrough.
"We have seen this before. There has to be action that follows this," said Michael Hammer of the NSC. "There is always a caveat or detail or it is conditional upon something else."
Chernomyrdin said Thursday that the war crimes indictment against Milosevic and four senior Yugoslav officials would complicate matters.
"We warned them (the tribunal). We requested them not to do it," he said.
Switzerland on Friday issued arrest warrants for the five and said it was examining an order from the tribunal to freeze any assets held by Milosevic and his associates in Swiss banks.
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.
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.
Milosevic indictment makes history
Related to this story:
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.