RUSSIA brought another chapter of the cold war to a close yesterday, formally ending almost 50 years of Russian and Soviet military presence on German soil.
Gen. Matvei Burlakov, commander in chief of the Western Group of Forces, surrendered his command to Russian President Boris Yeltsin in front of the Schauspielhaus theater.
General Burlakov supervised the four-year withdrawal of troops that once numbered more than half a million, one of history's biggest peacetime troop movements.
Soviet troops stayed in Eastern Germany as an occupation force after conquering Berlin at the end of World War II.
Russia has chosen to focus remembrance on the conquest of Hitler, drawing a veil over its troops' role in maintaining the division of Germany and Berlin for more than four decades.
Mr. Yeltsin drew applause from the Germans on the square with an impromptu speech in which he said Hitler's attack in 1941 had forced Russia to defend itself, but added: ``The German people are not to blame and we will never hold this against them.''
He said the Soviet Army helped keep the postwar peace in Europe, but added: ``I am sure that after today's final reconciliation, our relations can acquire a new quality.... We are in a position to make our neighborly relations warmer and more human.''
Germany paid Russia about $9 billion to finance the troops' withdrawal. France deports 20 Algerians
FRANCE yesterday deported to Burkina Faso 20 of 26 Algerians interned in a crackdown on Muslim fundamentalists after the killing of five French nationals in Algiers nearly a month ago, officials said.
The Interior Ministry would not disclose the destination. But a government official who asked not to be named said they were going to the impoverished West African country.
The Algerians had been held for nearly a month at an abandoned Army camp northeast of Paris pending their expulsion to a third country.
Interior Minister Charles Pasqua said the expulsions were intended as a message to Muslim militants in France to refrain from political activity.