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Friday, April 2, 1999 Published at 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK

World: Europe

Russia spy ship heads off

The Liman sails from the Black Sea port of Sevastopol

Russia has despatched a spy ship to watch Nato operations over Yugoslavia.

Kosovo: Special Report
The Liman left the Black Sea port of Sevastapol early on Friday and should reach the Mediterranean some time on Saturday.

Reporters in Sevastopol said they saw no evidence that the reconnaissance ship was carrying weapons.

Defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus: "Bizarre throwback to Cold War era"
At least six other vessels are scheduled to follow in the next few days - all, according to the Black Sea Fleet's commander, "combat ready".

Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev told a Moscow news conference that "the aim of sending a reconnaissance ship to the Mediterranean is to obtain more specific and detailed information on the situation in the region".

He added, "we ought to have such information, in the interests of Russia's security".

Nato opposed

Nato has expressed concern about the presence of Russian warships in the battle zone.

Even though Moscow has said it won't be dragged into the Yugoslav conflict it has condemned Nato's bombing campaign and there are growing calls in Russia for military support to be sent to the Serbs.

But the Kremlin maintains that a diplomatic solution must be found to the conflict.

On Thursday President Yeltsin called for an emergency summit of the seven leading industrialised nations, plus Russia, to discuss the Kosovo crisis.

This has been rejected by the United States. A State Department spokesman said that such a summit was not an appropriate forum for discussion of Kosovo.

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