Russia Today - Russia Fires Shots At Nato Over Kosovo, Chechnya

MOSCOW, Dec 3, 1999 -- (Reuters) Russia launched a twin diplomatic strike against NATO on Friday, saying the Kosovo peacekeeping force it leads was a dismal failure and the alliance's criticism of Moscow's Chechnya campaign was cynical at best.

Moscow lashed out against a NATO statement urging it to show restraint in Chechnya and pursue peace talks. NATO defense ministers issued the statement at a meeting in Brussels this week that high-level Russians stayed away from because ties are frozen over the alliance's bombing of Yugoslavia.

"It appears at the very least cynical - such a 'love for peace' among those who so recently carried out massive aggression against sovereign Yugoslavia," the Foreign Ministry said in one of its toughest Chechnya statements yet.

"The defense ministers of the alliance countries, it appears, are aiming to worsen the situation around Chechnya." Russia considers Chechnya, where its troops are battling Islamic rebels, an internal affair and resents outside comments.

Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, the Defense Ministry's outspoken chief of international relations, told a news conference the West had been unsuccessful in trying to paint Russia into a corner over Chechnya at a recent European summit. NATO's performance in Kosovo was no better.

"I should say right away that today there is no basis for saying the international presence in Kosovo has been a success," Ivashov said. After the NATO bombing ended, the alliance-led KFOR force was deployed in Kosovo with U.N. backing.

DISTURBING FIGURES FROM KOSOVO, SAYS IVASHOV

"The main tenets of U.N. Security Council resolution 1244 are practically not being fulfilled," he said. The resolution governs the work of the United Nations and KFOR in Kosovo.

"If you talk about the main tasks and the guaranteeing of security for all citizens of Kosovo province, then the figures are very disturbing," Ivashov said.

More than 400 ethnic Serbs had been killed and more than 500 wounded since KFOR moved in with the task, among others, of stopping clashes between Serbs and ethnic Albanians, he said.

Ivashov reiterated comments he made on Thursday when he said Moscow might reconsider the form of its involvement in KFOR. Russia has 3,000 troops among the 40,000 stationed in Kosovo. But he said Russia was not considering withdrawal for now.

Russia's overall ties with NATO largely depended on the alliance's ability to fulfil its obligations in Kosovo and so far the signs were not favorable, he said. Cooperation on the ground was good but less rosy at a strategic level.

NATO countries were trying to split Kosovo from Yugoslavia, Ivashov said, noting that four airlines fly to Kosovo and the United States was establishing a diplomatic presence there.

Ivashov said ties with NATO were still frozen despite NATO overtures.

"They are offering the same old formula which is essentially cooperation for the sake of cooperation. We are not ready to renew or initiate warm relations," he said.

There would be a tough response from Moscow if NATO deployed nuclear weapons in Hungary, one of three Central European countries to join the alliance this year. But he said Russia's aim was to avoid, not provoke, confrontation.

The defense daily Krasnaya Zvezda took a harder line.

"It is obvious the era of good ties with the West has ended in Russia too," it said. "At last we are starting to realize Russia needs an effective mechanism to defend its interests."

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