Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russian Defense Chief Renounces Airstrikes

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russian Defense Chief Renounces Airstrikes

Article excerpt

RUSSIAN Defense Minister Pavel Grachev yesterday blamed both Bosnian Serb and Muslim forces for the bloodbath in Gorazde, and said the threat of NATO airstrikes would only worsen the situation and should be abandoned.

In comments that directly contradicted statements by Russia's Foreign Ministry, General Grachev said he was against the NATO raids and that he wanted to increase the number of Russian peacekeeping contingents in the besieged Muslim enclave.

"There are provocations from both sides, but they unfortunately have been caused by not entirely well-thought-out actions taken by the leadership of the United Nations and NATO when they decided to carry out airstrikes against Serb positions," Grachev said at a news conference. "The history of Yugoslavia, especially in World War II, has shown us that it is impossible to achieve a victory using such methods."

Grachev's comments came the day after Serb militants pulled back their heavy weapons outside a two-mile radius encircling Gorazde. The action was in response to an ultimatum issued by NATO allies on April 22, warning the Serbs to halt shelling or face immediate airstrikes.

Wearing a starched, pea-green uniform, Grachev proposed a four-pronged program to help solve the Bosnian crisis. Along with renouncing airstrikes, it calls for reinforcing peacekeeping contingents in Gorazde, sending humanitarian aid to all Bosnian Muslim enclaves, and holding a US-Russian-European summit on ex-Yugoslavia, as proposed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Russia, which has strong Orthodox ethnic ties to Serbia and has seen itself as Serbia's protector, has waffled back and forth on its policy toward Bosnia after Bosnian Serb troops intensified attacks on Gorazde.

Yuli Vorontsov, Moscow's Ambassador to the UN, told reporters in New York Saturday that Russia would back NATO's decision, but he protested its decision to extend strikes to "safe areas."

Similarly, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, who is scheduled to meet today with US Secretary of State Warren Christopher for talks in Geneva, said in an Interfax interview published Sunday that NATO's threat was an "adequate response" to Bosnian Serb aggression, and that Serb targeting of the civilian population was "inadmissible. …

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