Putin sends Shoigu to Serbia and Montenegro to discuss situation of Serbian refugees

Sergei Shoigu, the head of the Russian Ministry for Emergencies, leaves Monday, Marhc 22, for Serbia and Montenegro on a fact-finding mission to ascertain what help can be offered to Serbian refugees there. As reported by Vesti, the Russian minister of foreign affairs, Sergei Lavrov, discussed the matter by telephone in recent days with the president of Serbia and Montenegro, Svetozar Marovich, and the prime minister of Serbia, Sergei Koshtunitsa, and informed them of the impending visit.

'The Russian side expressed a deep alarm over the sharp upsurge of ethnic violence in Kosovo, as a result of which many people have been killed, wounded and victimized,' according to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The visit by the Russian minister for emergencies is being undertaken at the direction of the Russian president.

The situation in Kosovo was the main topic of discussion during a meeting held Saturday by President Vladimir Putin. He judged the situation in Kosovo to be a case of ethnic cleansing against Serbs. Addressing Shoigu, Putin said that a previously planned visit by the head of the Ministry for Emergencies to Serbia and Montenegro would go ahead. 'However, the situation has recently become very difficult there, and many people are suffering,' Putin said. In connection with this, Putin requested that Shoigu inform him of any measures that could be taken to assist Serbian refugees.

Shoigu replied that the previously planned trip to Serbia and Montenegro was tied to economic cooperation between Russia and that country. 'Right now, the situation has dramatically worsened,' said Shoigu 'There are now refugees from at least 20 population centers on Serbian territory. It is critical that steps be taken immediately to assist those people, ' he said. He explained that such assistance could take the form of tent cities, medicine and food. According to Shoigu, the most important is to get a hospital up and running. He said that he would analyze the situation over the course of the next two days, and in consultation with the government of Serbia and Montenegro, take necessary measures.

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