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Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 18:12 GMT 19:12 UK

World: Europe

Russia's mixed signals

Viktor Chernomyrdin has met Bill Clinton in Washington

By BBC Russian Affairs Analyst Stephen Dalziel

Moscow seems to be giving off different signals on the crisis in Yugoslavia.

Kosovo: Special Report
Russian special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin emerged from talks with President Bill Clinton on Tuesday, suggesting a diplomatic solution to the Yugoslav crisis was closer. But Russian Defence Minister, Marshal Igor Sergeyev, has said that any future peacekeeping force should not include Nato troops.

As the Yugoslav crisis has ground on, the noises coming out of Moscow have often seemed to contradict each other.

Perhaps the most vivid example was when President Boris Yeltsin talked in apparently threatening terms about Nato's military action in Yugoslavia leading to a third world war, only for his Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, to emphasise that Russia had no intention of military involvement in the conflict.

Peace talks go on

Stephen Dalziel: "Noises coming out of Moscow have often seemed to contradict themselves"
The appointment of Viktor Chernomyrdin as Russia's special envoy seemed to produce an outlet for yet another version of events from Moscow. As Mr Chernomyrdin has become involved in a whirlwind of diplomatic activity in the past week, his tone appears to have grown more conciliatory towards Nato.

Before leaving Washington for New York, where he will speak to the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, Mr Chernomyrdin commented positively about the talks with Mr Clinton.

But Mr Sergeyev, attending a meeting of Nordic defence ministers in Norway, criticised Nato. He said its aggressive actions in Yugoslavia should exclude it from any role in the international peacekeeping force which both Russia and Nato believe must come.

Mr Chernomyrdin is the official spokesman and must be seen as Russia's principal policymaker on Yugoslavia. But apparently contradictory statements from other Moscow sources illustrate that the Russian position is not as one-dimensional as it may have seemed at first.

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