Russia soldier seriously hurt in Kosovo shooting

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Mar 1, 2000 -- (Reuters) A Russian soldier serving with KFOR peacekeeping troops in Kosovo was seriously wounded when he was shot in the chest in the northern town of Srbica, a spokesman for French peacekeepers said on Wednesday.

The soldier, whose name was not released pending notification of his family, was shot while standing beside his vehicle in the center of the overwhelmingly Albanian town south of the tense city of Mitrovica on Tuesday at 1350 GMT.

French spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Chanliau said the soldier was out of danger and that an investigation was under way.

He also said the French commander of troops in northern Kosovo, General Pierre de Saqui de Sannes, was in the area investigating the situation.

Chanliau added that the soldier had been evacuated to the French military hospital in Mitrovica.

"We know nothing of the identity of the assailant nor the motive," Chanliau said, adding that he did not know of any previous shootings of Russian peacekeepers in that area.

He said that the wounded solider was a driver who had brought his commanding officer to a meeting at the municipal offices in the center of Srbica.

He would not speculate on whether the shooting was linked to the Albanian distrust of Russian peacekeepers whom Albanians say are closely allied with the Serbs.

But Chanliau noted that the soldier was out of the usual patrol area for Russian peacekeepers which ends just south of Srbica.

He said there were 500 Russian soldiers deployed in a zone stretching from Srbica to the west.

The shooting comes one day after the U.S. Defense Department said that it was no longer sending U.S. troops out of their eastern sector to help allied forces keep order in other areas of Kosovo unless an emergency warranted such a shift.

That instruction was issued after Serbs in Mitrovica, the main flashpoint of ethnic tensions between ethnic Albanians and Serbs, stoned American troops conducting house to house weapons searches.

American troops were withdrawn from Kosovska Mitrovica shortly after the incident.

Original article