CEOL - Russian defense chief to visit YU, Kosovo

Moscow, Dec 21, 1999 -- (Reuters) Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev will visit Yugoslavia later this week to discuss military cooperation with Belgrade and will also go to Kosovo, Russian news agencies said on Tuesday.

"During talks with the Yugoslav leadership we will discuss bilateral military and military-technical cooperation within the permitted framework," Interfax news agency quoted Sergeyev as saying, referring to cooperation that is not barred by international sanctions.

The Russian news agencies did not say when Sergeyev planned to visit the Serbian province of Kosovo, which is under the control of a NATO-led international force.

Russia, which has traditional ties with its fellow Slavs in Serbia, has contributed a contingent to the international force in Kosovo but Moscow is at odds with the West over some aspects of the peacekeeping operation.

"We are participants in this operation and we have to know what is going on there," Interfax quoted Sergeyev as saying. "In our opinion, very little is being done to stabilize the situation there."

Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo are suspicious of Russian troops and accuse them of bias in favor of Belgrade. Moscow opposed NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia earlier this year which was intended to persuade Belgrade to halt a crackdown against Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.

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