Kiev to Double Peacekeeping Contingent

KIEV -- Ukraine, its peacekeeping troops under threat from Bosnian Serbs in a Moslem enclave, will more than double the size of its contingent in former Yugoslavia, a top Foreign Ministry official has said.

Volodymyr Yelchenko, head of the ministry's UN department, said Monday the foreign and defense ministries had asked parliament to approve the expansion of Ukraine's contingent to up to 3,000 from its current level of 1,200.

He also said in an interview that UN commanders were to blame for putting dozens of Ukrainian troops under threat in the eastern town of Zepa.

"Our peacekeepers have been left on their own. Why should a [Ukrainian] commander be deciding everything on his own? Where are the communications? Where is the coordination?" he said.

Yelchenko said top UN envoys Yasushi Akashi and Thorvald Stoltenberg "must be replaced," and suggested that former U.S. president Jimmy Carter might be a good substitute.

Ukraine's troops are divided evenly between Bosnia and Croatia, with 79 men defending Zepa. The former Soviet republic, which first dispatched peacekeepers in July 1992, had planned to send an additional 600 men. Twelve Ukrainians have been killed and more than 50 wounded carrying out their duties.

Bosnian Serb troops, poised to capture Zepa, laid mines around a checkpoint guarded by Ukrainian troops and threatened to fire on the peacekeepers if NATO warplanes intervened.

President Leonid Kuchma, visiting neighboring Belarus, said Ukraine intended to keep its peacekeepers in former Yugoslavia.