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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Luzhkov For Union Of Russia And Serbs

Yury Luzhkov, Moscow mayor and would-be Russian president, declared his support for a union between Russia, Belarus and Yugoslavia on Friday, holding an hour-long meeting with a Serbian politician who has been denounced in the West as a war criminal.

Extreme nationalist Vojislav Seselj, who is deputy prime minister of the Yugoslav government and leader of the Serbian Radical Party, also held talks with State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov, Communist Party boss Gennady Zyuganov, Patriarch Alexy II and Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin during an official visit.

Seselj headed a delegation to Yaroslavl in central Russia earlier this week to attend a biannual session of the union between Russia and Belarus. The union treaty signed in May 1997 has little substance, but its mere existence gives nationalists a platform for promoting integration between the two countries.

At a time when Yugoslavia is under threat of NATO airstrikes, Luzhkov said joining the union would give Belgrade powerful political protection.

"Any action against Belgrade would therefore be an action against Russia and Belarus," Interfax reported him as saying. Luzhkov added that he intended to visit Minsk in the near future to discuss the issue with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.

"Although a typhoon of counteraction is bound to break out [as a result of this union], this is the correct direction along which we must move," Luzhkov was quoted as saying.

Seselj said he hoped Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Romania and Bulgaria might also join the union, emphasizing that together they could counterbalance the forces of NATO and the European Union.

"We will continue to refuse to let NATO onto our land," Seselj said Friday. "The Serbian people say that wherever NATO has been, the grass no longer grows."

NATO has threatened Yugoslavia with airstrikes if it does not withdraw its troops from the war-ravaged Kosovo province.

Although Yugoslavia shares no borders with either Russia or Belarus, the countries are traditional allies and share the Orthodox Christian faith.

Yugoslavia was invited to the union session for the first time as an observer but could become a fully integrated member, nationalist Duma Deputy Sergei Baburin said Friday.

A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, however, said the proposed union with Yugoslavia was not official policy between the two countries, since it had been brought about at a parliamentary level.

"To talk about a concrete union between these two countries is premature," the spokesman said.

However, support for Yugoslavia in the face of the NATO ultimatum has increased in Russia. The government has opposed NATO action, and last month, some 10,000 volunteers from all over Russia said they were willing to support Serbian forces against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

During the Croatian and Bosnian wars, Seselj commanded Serbian paramilitary units, and his nationalism is said to be more extreme than that espoused by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.