UN prosecutor alarmed at YU's Moscow visit

THE HAGUE, May 16, 2000 -- (Reuters) The UN's chief warcrimes prosecutor on Monday expressed alarm that Yugoslav Defense Minister Dragoljub Ojdanic, indicted by the United Nations for alleged war crimes in Kosovo, had paid a secret visit to Moscow.

A source at the Yugoslav embassy in Moscow said on Saturday that Ojdanic had visited Russia on May 7-12, holding talks with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev and the head of the armed forces' general staff, Anatoly Kvashnin.

"The prosecutor is alarmed by these reports," said Paul Risley, spokesman for Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague.

"It's likely the prosecutor will enquire directly of the Russian embassy in the Hague whether the reports are accurate and why the Russian authorities did not take any steps to arrest a person under indictment by the tribunal."

The issues discussed included bilateral military cooperation and the situation in the Balkans, particularly Kosovo.

The tribunal indicted Ojdanic, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and three other top Yugoslav and Serbian officials in May 1999 for crimes against humanity in the province of Kosovo.

"To my knowledge this is the first time any of the individuals indicted last May 26...have traveled outside Yugoslavia since the indictment. This is a remarkable occurrence," Risley said.

"For the tribunal this represents a missed opportunity."

He said tribunal president Claude Jorda would send a letter on the matter to Russia's mission to the United Nations.

Russia traditionally feels solidarity with Yugoslavia as a fellow Slavic, Orthodox nation and strongly opposed NATO air raids last year intended to drive Serb forces out of Kosovo for repressing the province's ethnic Albanian majority.

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