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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Backs Serbia, Opposes NATO

Russia's new parliament, signaling a more assertive foreign policy, on Friday opposed threatened NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serbs and called for the lifting of sanctions against Belgrade.

The State Duma, where liberals are outnumbered by Communists, conservatives and extreme nationalists, passed a pro-Serb motion by an overwhelming 280 votes to two, with eight abstentions.

"Great concern is evoked by active discussion in NATO organs about the possibility of bombing strikes against targets on the territory of former Yugoslavia," the parliament statement said.

"In the opinion of the State Duma, the use of violent methods will not only fail to bring about an end to the war in this region, but, on the contrary, may raise the conflict to a higher level of ferocity and confrontation and only bring new suffering and deprivations to the people of this region."

Russian conservatives are sympathetic to Serbia, a traditional Orthodox Christian ally.

The last conservative parliament clashed frequently with the government on Yugoslav policy, accusing Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev of kowtowing to the West and betraying the Serbs.

The latest motion was not binding on the government. But Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the extremist Liberal Democratic Party, warned Kozyrev to take heed.

"Kozyrev must resign if the Russian Foreign Ministry does not adopt an unambiguously pro-Serbian position," he said, warning that a third world war could break out in the Balkans.

The rise of Zhirinovsky, whose party advocates restoring a Russian empire, has sent shivers through Russia's neighbors and the West and raised fears among them of a shift to the right in Moscow's foreign policy.

The vote was the first time that nationalists and Communists in the new legislature had joined ranks on a major foreign policy question.

Parliament's statement urged all interested parties to use exclusively political means to settle differences. It called on President Boris Yeltsin and the government to "undertake an official initiative in the U.N. Security Council on lifting economic sanctions against Serbia."

An earlier draft put forward by the two parties and the conservative Agrarians had referred to the "need to withdraw all foreign military contingents from the territory of former Yugoslavia." This was defeated by a margin of 131 votes to 114.