Wednesday, March 24, 1999 Published at 19:14 GMT
Nato bombs Serbia
Up to 400 Allied planes have been on standby
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Nato has begun its first wave of strikes against Serbian military targets.
BBC Correspondent in Belgrade, Jeremy Cooke, says journalists in Belgrade have witnessed flashes on the horizon outside the capital. A military airfield lies approximately 15 km from the hotel where they are staying.
Detonations were heard in the capital of Kosovo, Pristina. Residents said at least four huge detonations were heard - one quite loud - and air raid sirens sounded.
This is expected to pave the way for huge bombing raids on Serb forces by up to 400 Nato warplanes on standby in the region.
Air raid sirens have been sounding in Pristina.
The beginning of the operation was announced by the Nato Secretary-General.
Military observers say the warplanes will meet a stiffer challenge than air missions over Iraq; western leaders have acknowledged they risk allied casualties.
President Slobodan Milosevic has promised to resist the offensive by "all means".
Nato Secretary-General Javier Solana gave the go-ahead for air strikes against Yugoslavia on Tuesday night, saying there was no option if Nato is to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo.
Thousands of Kosovo Albanians have been fleeing the latest Serb-led offensive heading south into the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.
Yugoslavia was placed on on high alert after the government declared a state of emergency. Military preparations were being made with air-raid shelters and bunkers prepared for civilians.
The United Nations Security Council is to meet shortly at Russia's request.
On Wednesday afternoon, Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic called on his people to be prepared to defend their country "by all means".
In a nationally televised address he warned them that "at stake is the freedom of the entire country".
"We shall defend the country if it is attacked," he said.
Blaming Yugoslav Government "intransigence", the Nato secretary-general has said Nato's quarrel was not with the Yugoslav people and that the attacks would be aimed at weakening the Yugoslav army and special police forces.
President Boris Yeltsin appealed to world leaders in a national television address on Wednesday to keep Bill Clinton from making what he described as a "terrifying and tragic" mistake of launching air strikes against Serbia. Russia says it is ready to call an emergency meeting of the Security Council.
Its Prime Minister, Yevgeny Primakov has warned that Russia's relations with Washington will be damaged and European stability harmed.
The Russian Defence Minister, Igor Sergeyev, has warned that Nato strikes could produce "a new Vietnam inside Europe".