Russian Defence Minister: Russia to withdraw troops from Balkans by August 1st

Russia intends to withdraw its troops from the Balkan Peninsula by August 1st 2003, said Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov at the session of the Russia-NATO Council on Tuesday.

The withdrawal will start in the second half of May and will be carried out by railway and air, he said.

"The decision in no way means we have lost interest in settlement in this region," Ivanov emphasized. Russia will continue its active part in political settlement on the Balkans both in bilateral and multilateral formats within the corresponding structures of the UN, OSCE and other international organizations, the minister pointed out.

Apart from this, Russian "policemen instead of the military" will participate in the settlement in former Yugoslavia, he added. At present the Joint Staff of the Russian Armed Forces and the Chief Command of the Ground Forces in close interaction with the NATO are working to fulfil the Russian President's decision to withdraw Russian troops from Kosovo, as well as from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the minister recalled.

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