General Ivashov: Decision to deploy Russian airborne battalion in Kosovo was correct

The decision to deploy a Russian airborne battalion in Kosovo in 1999 was correct, said Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, a former top official of the Russian Defence Ministry.

That decision did not allow to "distort the essence of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and confirmed the sovereignty of Russia's foreign policy and its non-subordination to the U.S. and NATO. The deployment helped the Serbian nation and prevented genocide of Kosovo's non-Albanians," Ivashov said.

What was called "Russia's Pristina raid" was carried out on June 11-12 from Bosnia, where a Russian airborne battalion was deployed as part of international peacemaking forces. "It was a brilliant raid, performed despite the fierce pressure from Washington and Brussels [NATO headquarters]. Russia's powerful military-political potential was demonstrated, and not on the Balkans alone. Unfortunately, this potential was not properly used and, what's more, devaluated - Russia is leaving the Balkans itself," Ivashov noted.

Ivashov stressed that the battalion had been deployed "in line with the international law and the UN SC resolution". The operation was sanctioned by the then Russian President Boris Yeltsin. "His decision, based on reports of the ministers of defence and foreign affairs, envisaged the deployment of a Russian peacekeeping contingent simultaneously with NATO troops if NATO refused to recognise Russia as an equal partner in the Kosovo settlement," Ivashov stressed.

The deployment was carried out on an agreement with Yugoslavia's political leadership. The then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic ordered the defence ministry and other ministries to provide assistance to the Russian soldiers and co-operate with the Russian contingent's command.

According to Ivashov, the final decision to deploy troops was taken "after the disruption of negotiations with the Americans who were trying to impose on Russia discriminating terms of participation in the peacekeeping operation in the Balkans." "Russia was proposed to take part in the operation 'with two battalions within the mobile reserve of General Jackson, the KFOR commander, and Russia naturally rejected such form of participation," the general said.

The battalion was assigned the mission of seizing the Slatina airdrome, Kosovo's key object. The order to advance was received on June 11, 1999. The battalion reached the airdrome on June 12 early in the morning.

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