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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Warns UN on Moslem Advance

Russia has reacted with alarm to the major offensive by Bosnian government forces against the Serbs and warned of "dangerous" consequences if it is not stopped.


Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Sergei Lavrov, criticized the Security Council late Wednesday for failing to respond to what he called the abuse of UN-designated safe areas by the mainly Moslem Bosnian government.


Government forces, many of which are based in the safe areas, have overrun about 250 square kilometers of territory in the last few days in one of their most effective campaigns of the whole Bosnian war.


In the northwest of the country, Moslem forces have broken out of the enclave of Bihac, while in the central region the Serbs are facing a joint advance by government forces and Bosnian Croats backed by tanks and multiple rocket launchers, Reuters reported.


"This is naturally exacerbating the situation," Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigory Karasin said Thursday. "We have to put a stop to this dangerous development and we won't slacken our efforts in this direction."


Lavrov said the Bosnian Moslems were abusing a lack of clarity in the status of UN safe areas. He said the only response he had had from the rest of the Security Council was that the Bosnian Serbs had not agreed to the international peace map for the country, implying they had brought the offensive on themselves.


Lavrov said that unless the Security Council "reacts adequately and swiftly, we are risking very dangerous developments in Bosnia which could lead to another catastrophe," Reuters reported.


Russia, a traditional ally of Serbia, was instrumental in persuading Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to close his country's border with Bosnia and impose a blockade on the Bosnian Serbs to force them to accept the peace plan.


As a result, some of the international sanctions imposed on rump Yugoslavia were lifted last month, including a ban on flights and some imports.


Karasin said Thursday that Russia had proposed to the council's sanctions committee that the embargo on Serbia and Montenegro should be eased further. He said "fuel for humanitarian ends" should be sent to the two countries ahead of the winter because of Serbia's constructive line" over Bosnia.


Spyros Economides, a Balkans expert at the London School of Economics, said that the Russians, who have the ear of the Serbs, were lobbying hard to keep their role as mediators in the conflict.


If the Moslem offensive continued unchecked, Economides said, there was a possibility Russia might pull out of the international Contact Group on the conflict and the West would lose one of its main channels for talking to the Serbs.