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Thursday, May 20, 1999 Published at 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK

World: Europe

Fighting for a foreign land

Yugoslav troops have support from Russian volunteers

By Jacky Rowland in Pristina

While Nato and other sources allege widescale desertions in the Yugoslav army, Russian volunteers fighting alongside the Serbs troops say morale is high.

A number of Russians have joined the Yugoslav forces since the conflict with Nato began and many of them fight in front-line positions in Kosovo.

Kosovo: Special Report
It is not clear how many foreigners are fighting in the Yugoslav army, but there could be hundreds.

In most cases, recruitment was informal. Many volunteers said they decided to join up after seeing news reports about Kosovo on television.

The bulk of the foreign volunteers appear to come from Russia, although there are also recruits from other European countries.

At least one unit of Russian volunteers is fighting against the Kosovo Liberation Army in one of its remaining strongholds in central Serbia.


The Russians say they are on the front-line with regular Yugoslav army units behind them.

Volunteers say rebel forces have been severely degraded in recent weeks, although small cells continue to operate.

The rebels appear to be reverting to classic insurgent tactics such as sniper fire and ambushes.

The Russians came to Kosovo to oppose Nato rather than to fight the KLA.

They described the build up of Nato forces in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as a threat to regional peace, and they dismissed reports from Nato about low morale in the Yugoslav army and a lack of ammunition.

Many of the Russians appear to be idealists, fighting a crusade in Kosovo.

They reject allegations of massacres carried out by the security forces and blame the Nato bombing campaign for the exodus of Kosovo Albanian refugees.

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