Russia says Kosovo set dangerous precedent

MOSCOW, Mar 26, 2000 -- (Reuters) Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev was quoted on Saturday as saying NATO's air strikes over Yugoslavia had set a dangerous precedent for large-scale military deployments which violated international law.

Sergeyev made the comments in an interview in the latest edition of the defense ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda, which went to print on the first anniversary of the beginning of NATO's 78-day bombing blitz.

NATO launched its attacks last year with the stated aim of preventing a humanitarian disaster caused by Serbian security forces in Kosovo rampaging against ethnic Albanian civilians. Russia, which has traditional ties with fellow Slavic Serbia, fiercely opposed the operation.

"(The air strikes) created a dangerous precedent for ignoring the UN Security Council as the top body overseeing peacekeeping and international security," Sergeyev said.

"It created another dangerous precedent: the arbitrary large-scale deployment of armed forces," he said, adding that NATO's "aggression" had violated international law.

Sergeyev reiterated threats that Russia might pull its contingent of troops from the KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo if a U.N. resolution calling for Kosovo to remain part of Yugoslavia was ignored.

"We retain the right to act at our own discretion in order (to see) the full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1,244," he told the military daily.

He said Russia wanted to be given a role in decisions relating to peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and cast doubt on the effectiveness of NATO's operation.

"Not one of the declared Western aims was achieved," he said, noting that bombing Yugoslav targets had only strengthened Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's grip on power.

Russia revived ties with NATO in February after a year of Cold War-style tensions over Kosovo.

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