YU defence minister held talks in Moscow

MOSCOW, May 14, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslav Defence Minister Dragoljub Ojdanic paid a five-day visit to Moscow this week where he held talks with senior Russian military officials, a source in the Yugoslav embassy said on Saturday.

The source, who declined to be named, said Ojdanic met Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev and the head of the armed forces' general staff Anatoly Kvashnin.

Among issues discussed were bilateral military cooperation and the situation in the Balkans, especially Kosovo where a NATO-led peacekeeping force which includes Russian troops is trying to overcome ethnic tensions between Serbs and Albanians.

The source said Ojdanic also attended a military parade on Red Square next to the Kremlin on May 9 to mark the 55th anniversary of the end of World War Two - a conflict in which Russia and Yugoslavia were allies against Nazi Germany.

Ojdanic's visit coincided with the inauguration of Russia's new president, Vladimir Putin, on May 7 and came ahead of a planned visit to Moscow by Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic on May 15.

Ojdanic's trip, which ended on May 12, was shrouded in secrecy and went unreported in the Russian media until Saturday. A recent trip to Moscow by Iraq's defence minister was marked by similar secrecy.

Russia's Defence Ministry was not available on Saturday to comment on Ojdanic's visit.

Russia has traditionally close religious and cultural ties with Serbia, the senior partner in the Yugoslav Federation which also includes tiny Montenegro.

Moscow fiercely opposed NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia last year but helped to forge a diplomatic settlement of the crisis and also joined the peacekeeping mission.

In recent months, Russia has criticized the KFOR peacekeeping mission's failure to halt attacks on Serbs by ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and has accused the West of political bias. Moscow insists that Kosovo remain part of Yugoslavia.

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