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Saturday, June 26, 1999 Published at 21:29 GMT 22:29 UK


World: Europe

Russians arrive in Kosovo

K-For commander Gen Sir Mike Jackson welcomes the Russians

An advance party of Russian peacekeepers has touched down in Kosovo to pave the way for a 3,000-strong force.

Kosovo: Special Report
Twenty-one paratroopers and 18 technicians flew into the capital Pristina.

Their arrival on Saturday came amid growing fears about violence, with Kosovo Albanians returning to the province seeking revenge on Serbs.


Duncan Kennedy reports on the symbolism of the arrivals at Pristina airport
Pristina airport had been closed since about 200 Russian soldiers beat Nato forces into Kosovo two weeks ago, provoking a stand-off between the two sides.

The Russian Illyushin was immediately followed by a French C-130 Hercules, carrying supplies to reequip the airport.


[ image: The Russian plane was first to land at Pristina]
The Russian plane was first to land at Pristina
K-For commander General Sir Mike Jackson greeted officers descending from the two arriving planes, starting with the Russians.

Another 12 flights - half of them Russian and half Nato - are expected over the next week, after which the airport should be fully operational for military and humanitarian flights.

More Russian troops are expected to arrive on Monday.

Uncertainty about role

It is still not clear where the Russian troops, who will eventually number around 3,000, will be stationed in Kosovo.


The BBC's Paul Anderson at Pristina airport: Immense national pride for the Russians
A senior Russian Defence Ministry official, General Leonid Ivashov, said that in the case of "political complications" concerning disarmament or the arrest of indicted war criminals, a decision would be taken in Moscow, possibly even with the consent of President Yeltsin.

Many ethnic Albanians are nervous at the thought of a Russian presence, and there are concerns that if the Russians are assigned to prodominantly Serb districts, it could lead to a de facto partition of Kosovo.



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UNHCR: The Kosovo Crisis


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