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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Agrees to Boost Troops in Bosnia

Parliament on Friday approved President Boris Yeltsin's request to send 300 additional soldiers to serve as United Nations peacekeeping troops in Bosnia.

The legislature's upper chamber, the Federation Council, voted 118-2 with three abstentions to send the troops after Yeltsin told lawmakers Thursday that the added forces were necessary to ensure warring sides respect cease-fire agreements in Bosnia's capital Sarajevo.

Under Russia's constitution, only the upper house's approval is needed to send troops abroad.

Vitaly Churkin, Yeltsin's top envoy to former Yugoslavia, applauded the lawmakers' swift approval, saying that the move would "symbolize Russia's growing central role in a Bosnian settlement."

The resolution only mentioned the peacekeeping force in Sarajevo, but Churkin said after the vote that some of the troops would be sent to reinforce a Russian battalion in neighboring Croatia that sent 400 peacekeepers to Sarajevo last weekend, Reuters reported.

Pyotr Pemyak, deputy chairman of the Federal Council's defense committee, said the troops would be assigned to "find a political way of normalizing relations in this region, but not by drawing Russia progressively into the conflict," Itar-Tass reported.

General Yevgeny Podkozlin, commander in chief of the Russian Air Force, told Interfax before the vote that the 300 men would be airlifted to former Yugoslavia in April.

Yeltsin made a written request to the Federation Council after addressing a joint session of parliament Thursday, stressing Russia's "special role" in brokering a solution to the Bosnian crisis.

Close cooperation between the president and the legislature of the kind demonstrated in the Yugoslavia vote was one of the main themes of Yeltsin's state-of-the-union address Thursday, but a rare event nonetheless.

An expanded version of the address distributed to lawmakers and published in Friday's Rossiiskaya Gazeta contained points lawmakers are sure to oppose.

Chief among these was a directive to deputies not to "erect barriers in the path of realizing the main goals of domestic and foreign policy" as set out by the president.

Yeltsin also sent an oblique warning to ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who has advocated declaring war on Russia's Moslem neighbors to solve the country's problems.

"In the future, the activity of the parties, movements and other organizations that attack the basics of the constitutional system and advocate and sow social, national and religious hostility and hatred must not be allowed," it said.