An armed confrontation is possible between Russian and NATO forces in
Kosovo, according to Russian Defense Minister Gen. Igor Sergeyev.

In an address to a special assembly of the State Duma, the lower
house of the Russian legislature, the Russian Defense Minister said that
a stand-off between Russian and NATO forces could develop in two to
three months on the border between Kosovo and Serbia.

The Kosovo-Serb border has seen an increasing number of armed
conflicts between Serbs and ethnic Albanians crossing into Serbia from
Kosovo. Moscow blames NATO for allowing the clashes, as well as for not
protecting Serbs in Kosovo itself.

Segeyev set out one possible scenario in which Russian forces already
in Kosovo would find it necessary to march out of their designated area
and into the Kosovo-Serbian border. Such a move would be a violation of
the NATO-imposed division of the nominally Serb province, and place the
Russians in conflict with other NATO troops patrolling the border area.

British, French, and U.S. troops shoulder most of the responsibility
for the border region between Kosovo and Serbia.

Segeyev stated that Russia was attempting to avert such a

At the same Duma special session — which was heard via the “Voice of
Russia” World Service Short Wave Radio Broadcast — Russian Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov declared the political situation in Kosovo to be
“very alarming.” He accused Albanian extremists of turning Kosovo into
a center for drug dealing. Ivanov found it “even more alarming” that
militant Albanians are using NATO peacekeepers as a “cover” for a
campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Serb population.

Some 350,000 refugees have fled Kosovo, predominantly Serbs, but also
included are Gypsies and Moslems.

Violence has continued to increase along the Kosovo-Serb border as a
new Albanian guerrilla group has arisen in the area, according to the
BBC. The new group is challenging both Serbian police and NATO troops.

The new guerrilla force operates in a predominantly Albanian area of
Serbia, and has named itself after three villages in the area, calling
itself the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac.

Russian criticism of NATO and its conduct in Kosovo has been
continuous and bitter since the end of the alliance’s air war against
Yugoslavia. Moscow claims that NATO favors the ethnic Albanians in
Kosovo, and that NATO peacekeepers are responsible for the flight of
Serbs from Kosovo.

NATO’s ultimate goal, according to the Russian government, is the
separation of Kosovo from Yugoslavia.

Toby Westerman, editor of
International News Analysis, contributes exclusive reports to and WorldNet magazine.

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