Russian peacekeepers to continue their mission in hot spots

The Council of Federation unanimously supported the president's proposal on extending the period of Russian peacekeepers' stay in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict on its Friday session.

The senators approved of using Russian military troops comprising up to 3,000 people among the joint peacekeeping forces in the region till June 30, 2002.

First deputy foreign minister Valery Loschinin explained that the period of Russian forces' stay had expired on December 31, 2001. "The analysis of the current state of the Georgian-Abkhazian relations leads us to a conclusion that the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers may result in the derangement of the political settlement process," he said.

Now the joint peacekeepers in the region "are actually represented only by Russian forces," Loschinin pointed out. "Their withdrawal may lead to a sharp escalation of the conflict and to resumed hostilities between the parties," he said.

On the president's proposal the Russian senators also extended Russian peacekeepers' mandate in Kosovo until July 31, 2003. Until July 1, 2002, their number will be 2,000 people and since then it will be decreased down to 650 people.

When speaking before the senators, deputy foreign minister Evgeny Gusarov recalled that Russian military troops were stationed in Kosovo in compliance with the UN Security Council resolution. The Russian president's proposal to extend their service there was caused "by Russia's special responsibility for international stability and security, considering its role and interest in settling the Balkan crisis," he said.

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