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Sunday, August 1, 1999 Published at 04:42 GMT 05:42 UK

World: Europe

Russia accused in Kosovo

Russian troops seen as sympathic to Serbs by KLA

Russian peacekeeping troops in Kosovo were accused of deliberate provocation after detaining the Kosovo Liberation Army's military commander, Agim Ceku.

Kosovo: Special Report
The general was released after "no more than an hour", according to Nato, but the Russian action has angered the KLA's political leadership.

After his release, the Kosova Press news agency quoted General Ceku as saying the KLA does not plan to disarm.

The agency reported that General Ceku wanted the KLA to model itself on the US National Guard and act as a guardian of the province.

He is reported as saying that the KLA demilitarisation process laid down in the Kosovo peace settlement did not also mean KLA disarmament.

KLA leader Hashim Thaci [translated]: This shows our fears about Russian participation were justified
One of the KLA's political leaders, Hashim Thaci, said the detention was "an illegal arrest" and an "insult to our dignity".

Mr Thaci said General Ceku had been travelling on official business when he was detained at Kijevo on the road between the regional capital, Pristina, and the south-western city of Pec.

He called on K-For to bring the Russian troops firmly under its control.

He warned that if it happened again the KLA "would protect its authority and integrity".

'Russian mercenaries'

BBC Correspondent in Pristina Paul Wood: KLA "insulted by arrest"
But a spokesman for the K-For peacekeeping force said the Russians had "acted correctly", releasing General Ceku once he had proved his identity.

The K-For spokesman said General Ceku was stopped because he was travelling with four armed bodyguards and was not immediately able to prove he was authorised to do so.

Lieutenant Commander Louis Garneau said the incident lasted "no more than an hour" and the troops had acted properly if the general did not have his K-For-issued card allowing him to travel with bodyguards.

The BBC's Raphael Jesurum reports: "Incident bound to heighten tensions with the Russians"
"The word arrest is wrong here," he added.

But Mr Thaci said the action was a premeditated political act which highlighted KLA concerns about Russian participation in the peacekeeping force.

He also said Russian mercenaries, who had fought with alongside Serbia during the Kosovo conflict, had now been integrated into the force.

And he said those who detained General Ceku had spoken a mixture of Russian and Serbian.

General Ceku's office told the BBC he had summoned a Nato helicopter from Pristina to extricate him from the situation - but when the helicopter arrived he had gone, the KLA added.

Nato-Russia friction

[ image: Strained relations with K-For]
Strained relations with K-For
Correspondents say the incident seems likely to strain relations between K-For and the Russian contingent.

There were problems last month when Russian paratroopers stationed in Bosnia took K-For by surprise by flooding into the province - via Serbia - to seize Pristina airport.

Russia - which had helped broker the peace between Nato and Yugoslavia - was seeking its own designated sector within Kosovo.

But Nato feared such a move would threaten the peace in Kosovo, creating a Serb enclave which could threaten opportunities for creating a unified territory.

Kosovo Albanians see the Russian troops as more sympathetic to the province's Serbs because of Russia's close historical ties with the Serbs.

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