Russians Assail Kosovo Accord
By David Hoffman
MOSCOW, June 4 – There were no victory parades for Viktor Chernomyrdin today as the Russian envoy to the Balkan crisis faced a chorus of criticism from the military and parliament for the peace accord he helped fashion with Yugoslavia.
But Chernomyrdin won a pat on the back from President Boris Yeltsin, and Russian officials said plans were being laid to start preparing peacekeeping arrangements this weekend for Kosovo.
The criticism of Chernomyrdin underscored that his diplomacy was running against a tide of anti-American and anti-Western feelings in Russia that reached a fever pitch during the NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia.
Those sentiments boiled over again tonight at a closed-door meeting of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, and Russian officials that was devoted to details of the settlement. Sergei Ivanenko, a member from the centrist Yabloko bloc, said that Defense and Foreign Ministry officials gave the chamber information that showed Chernomyrdin "did not conduct the talks very successfully and made a number of concessions that were not necessary." He was not specific.
But a Western diplomat said the criticism was expected. "For six weeks they have been pontificating" against the war, he said of members of the parliament, who are up for reelection later this year. "Then things go in a different way – they have some readjusting to do."
Chernomyrdin, a former prime minister tapped by Yeltsin as envoy after Moscow's initial protests about the bombing were ignored, was a target of disdain by Communists and centrists alike, who complained that the peace agreement was a rubber stamp for NATO.
"As it looks now, there is a lot of disagreement," said Alexei Arbatov, deputy head of the defense committee in the State Duma and a member of Yabloko. The agreement "is very close to NATO's initial position. The NATO position . . . is imposed on Yugoslavia after 2½ months, under the camouflage of the Chernomyrdin mission. It served to pacify Western public opinion and imposed the NATO conditions on Belgrade."
"If that is so . . . then the agreement will be received in a very hostile way in Russia, and that would affect very badly future relations with Russia and NATO," he said.
Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist Party leader, said, "it does not look like there is a peace settlement. Bombings are going on. Chernomyrdin demonstrated total unprofessionalism. He deviated from those positions which had been worked out."
Vladimir Lukin, a former ambassador to the United States and chairman of the foreign affairs committee who is also from Yabloko, called the peace plan "muddled" and said "several points Russia insisted on were pushed through not to our benefit." While [Yugoslavian President Slobodan] Milosevic had little choice to accept the plan, he said, "I don't understand why Russia had to run into approving it."
The military also expressed dissatisfactions with the plan. Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, head of the Defense Ministry's international cooperation department, said the plan makes Russia dependent "on the good or ill will of NATO." Ivashov, who accompanied Chernomyrdin to Belgrade, has been open in recent days about his misgivings. But Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev has been more cautious, and the military is expected to fall into line.
Chernomyrdin responded to the criticism by saying, "There were two options: either to stop the war by political methods, or to fight, to put on our greatcoats and march ahead. I don't think that was the option the Russian people needed. In effect, Russia has been the only one to lead this negotiating process, and if we achieve an end to the bombings, it will be a success."
Chernomyrdin canceled plans to fly to Helsinki today for meetings with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. But he spoke with both by phone today and his spokesman said later that they agreed Russian military experts would join those arriving in Yugoslavia on Saturday.
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