Russia roasts KFOR failure to protect Serbs in Kosovo

MOSCOW, Mar 18, 2000 -- (AFP) The failure of the NATO-led peace force to protect non-Albanians in Kosovo has led to genocide and ethnic cleansing of catastrophic proportions, Russia said Friday.

Russia's defense and foreign ministers lambasted KFOR for the situation in the region, warning that the West would have to shoulder the blame if Kosovo split from Yugoslavia.

"The task of the peacekeeping force, that is to say ensuring security in the region and the return of refugees, is not being met," Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev told a session of the State Duma lower house of parliament.

"Instead, we have a genocide and ethnic cleansing of the non-Albanian population which have reached the level of a humanitarian catastrophe," he said.

The Russian minister accused KFOR, commanded by German General Klaus Reinhardt, of 20 separate breaches of a UN Security Council resolution on the province.

The peacekeepers had effectively armed Muslim Kosovars by incorporating them into a defense force for the province, he charged.

"The Russian military command has contingency plans should the situation deteriorate," said Sergeyev without elaborating.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov meanwhile told deputies that Moscow had no intention yet of pulling its 3,600 soldiers out of the 37,200-strong force, which comprises troops from 36 nations.

"If the situation deteriorates, if the separatists succeed in splitting Kosovo from Yugoslavia, then Russia will not share the blame with the West," Ivanov said.

Moscow has repeatedly threatened to review its participation in the peacekeeping operation if Yugoslavia's territorial integrity is not respected.

Lawmakers approved a fresh motion heavily criticizing the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia a year ago which preceded the deployment of KFOR troops.

Moscow broke off relations with the Atlantic alliance over the attacks, only moving to slowly restore relations on Wednesday.

Original article