Russia May Be Arming Serbs in Kosovo Crackdown

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

While the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo are fighting primarily with hand-held machine guns, the Serbs are attacking with tanks, helicopters, and fleets of armored personnel carriers (APCs).

In an Army base near the southwestern city of Djakovica, the APCs are in clear view from the main road, lined up in columns of 10. On the road into the provincial capital of Pristina, a tank lies in wait beside a nest of machine guns surrounded by sand bags.

The Serbs, who say they can level Kosovo in 48 hours, are only getting stronger.

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Recent reports indicate they may have made a deal with the Russians for tanks, attack helicopters, ground-to-air missiles, and MiG-29s. It's not yet clear if the deal, which the Russians deny, is in violation of the Dayton agreement that ended the war in Bosnia.

As the US has tried to strengthen sanctions against Serbian and force them into dialogue with the ethnic Albanians, Russia has proved to be Serbia's most loyal supporter.

But as skirmishes continue across Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians are 90 percent of the population, the Serbs continue to exploit their advantage in firepower.

The international community has urged Serbia to withdraw special police units from the region, where more than 80 people have been killed. But the Serbian police, special forces, and Army are closely tied together, making it difficult to tell whether Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has complied.

In the village of Glodjane, Serbian police battled ethnic Albanians for 11 hours Tuesday. One Serb policeman and at least two ethnic Albanians were killed, says Mohammed Hamiti, a spokesman for the ethnic Albanians' shadow government. Police used at least one attack helicopter and other heavy weaponry. "It's not the kind of fighting police would undertake," Mr. Hamiti says.

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