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Saturday, July 10, 1999 Published at 22:57 GMT 23:57 UK

World: Europe

Russian troops deploy in Kosovo

Villagers in western Kosovo find bodies in a well

A contingent of Russian peace-keepers arrived in eastern Kosovo on Saturday for their first deployment outside Pristina as part of the international force K-For.

Kosovo: Special Report
An advance group of 86 Russian soldiers is being deployed in the town of Kosovska Kamenica, in a sector run by American forces.

A unit of paratroopers drove into a heavily-damaged cement factory on the outskirts of the town to take over from US army soldiers who had been using the building as part of their headquarters in the area.

(Click here to see a map of deployments in Kosovo)

Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Markov said Russian forces would seek to quell ethnic Albanian fears that they might favour the Serbs, Moscow's traditional allies in the region.

[ image: Russian troops are now deploying in Kosovo]
Russian troops are now deploying in Kosovo
"We're only here to do the job of peacekeepers, to give support and to help Serbs and Albanians. We do not make any difference between them," he said.

A small group of Serbs came up to the front gate of the factory to welcome the Russians, who had left Pristina airport earlier in the day in a column of armoured personnel cars and trucks.

Many Serbs in Kosovo say only the Russian peacekeepers will give them proper protection.

In the town of Orahovac on Friday, 3,000 ethnic Albanians demonstrated against plans for Russians to take over from Dutch peacekeeping troops.

Fears of de facto partition

Russian troops began arriving in significant numbers earlier on Saturday in military transport planes.

Jonathan Marcus: Not everyone is happy about the Russian presence
Their deployment was held up by disagreements with K-For commanders on the role of the Russian soldiers.

Nato refused to allow them reponsibility for a sector, fearing an influx of Kosovo Serbs could lead to a de facto partition of the province.

Instead, under an agreement with Nato, the Russians will operate in peacekeeping sectors run by French, American and German troops.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke: "The Russians are on the move"
A spokesman for K-For said Russia would also send one battalion to Lausa in the north of Kosovo and two to the Malisevo region.

Some troops would remain at a logistics base in Kosovo Polje, close to the provincial capital Pristina.

More Russian troops and equipment are to arrive by sea in mid-July, bringing their strength to about 3,600 troops.

Bodies found

Earlier on Saturday, Captain Bernard Tandretto of K-For said five bodies had been found on Friday near Djakovica in western Kosovo.

Three were in a house and two in a well.

Investigators were hindered by driving rain and rough terrain, along with concern about land mines.

Serbia hit by floods

Storms have caused widespread damage in Serbia, with more than thousands of homes being evacuated.

[ image: Thousands of homes evacuated in Serbia]
Thousands of homes evacuated in Serbia
One person was swept away by a torrent of water at Jagodina, according to Serbian television.

Parts of the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, were reported without drinking water and electricity after two days of heavy rains.

The storms caused havoc to railway and road traffic throughout Serbia - and even set off an air-raid siren in one town, causing panic among residents who thought Nato had resumed bombing.

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