MOSCOW — RUSSIAN Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev is plowing ahead with a hastily arranged foreign tour, hoping to contain fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina after the apparent collapse of an internationally brokered Yugoslav peace settlement.
Mr. Kozyrev, following a May 17 stopover in Germany, visited the Croatian city of Split May 18 for talks with Croatian and Bosnian leaders. He also was to travel to Belgrade for discussions with Serb leaders.
On May 20 Kozyrev is scheduled to arrive in the United States for talks on the Yugoslav situation with US officials. Russian officials were expected to announce on May 18 that a UN Security Council session set for May 21 on peace efforts would be postponed, according to a US official. The US had said it would not attend.
Kozyrev still hopes to implement the plan negotiated by Cyrus Vance and Lord David Owen to end the fighting in Bosnia, even though the program seemed dead after Bosnian Serbs rejected it. Their vote was labeled a sham by Western leaders.
"We won't let a few militants and warlords stop the international community from extinguishing the war in Bosnia," the Russian foreign minister said before discussions with his German counterpart Klaus Kinkel.
Mr. Kinkel endorsed Kozyrev's plan, which includes the total implementation of UN sanctions, a seal-off of Bosnia's border with Serbia, the creation of safe havens within Bosnia, and the establishment of a war crimes court.
With the Bosnian Serbs' rejection of Vance-Owen, the fighting in Bosnia is once again starting to rage. Renewed hostilities - particularly if Muslims and Bosnian Serbs resume their bitter, all-out struggle - could spark a chain of events that Russia is desperate to avoid, especially Western military intervention. US officials have raised the possibility of arming Muslims and airstrikes against Bosnian Serbs.
Such actions would put President Boris Yeltsin's reform-minded government in a bind. Russia has supported UN peace efforts to date, despite criticism from Russian nationalists that Moscow is betraying its traditional ally, Serbia.
UN military action against Bosnian Serbs would undoubtedly cause nationalist sentiment in Russia to flare, making it difficult for Mr. Yeltsin to proceed with Western-oriented market reforms at home.
For their part, Western nations at the moment are reluctant to use force against Serbs. They seem ready to give Russia the chance to use its traditional influence over Serbia in a last-ditch attempt to salvage Vance-Owen, and thus avoid difficult decisions on military action.
Some Russian foreign policy analysts, however, give Kozyrev's efforts little chance of success.
"Attempts to enforce a plan that's been rejected by a majority of the Bosnian Serb population won't have success," says Nikolai Kolikov of Moscow's Mikhail Gorbachev Foundation.