The Nando Times - Russian ambassador visits Kosovo

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (November 7, 1999 10:14 a.m. EST - Sergei Lavrov, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, arrived in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, early Sunday for a two-day visit that was to include a meeting with U.N. civil administrator Bernard Kouchner, a U.N. spokeswoman said.

Lavrov is due to visit Belgrade for two days after his stay in Kosovo, the Russian embassy in Belgrade said.

Lavrov, who has often voiced criticism of the measures taken to protect Kosovo's Serbian minority, headed for the village of Gracanica where a Serbian Orthodox monastery is under the strict guard of NATO-led peacekeepers, U.N. spokeswoman Susan Manuel said.

He is to meet Kouchner on Monday after the French diplomat's return from a trip to the United Nations in New York to argue for the release of funds to pay cash-strapped U.N. staff in the troubled Serbian province.

Relations between Moscow and NATO were strained over the Atlantic alliance's 11-week air campaign to drive Serbian forces out of Kosovo, which Russia strongly opposed.

Ethnic Albanians, who constitute the vast majority of Kosovo's population, have opposed the stationing of Russian peacekeeping troops. They perceive the Russians as siding with Belgrade and have even blockaded the southwestern town of Orahovac to prevent their deployment.

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