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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow to Press Milosevic on Talks

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- Russia told NATO on Thursday that it would seek a specific implementation plan from Yugoslav President Slodoban Milosevic on his commitment to a peaceful solution of the Kosovo crisis as clashes rumbled on in the restive region.

Russia's permanent representative at NATO, Sergei Kislyak, called a special meeting of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council to inform the allies of the latest diplomatic moves by Moscow to avert an escalation which could trigger intervention.

"The Russians said they were sending [Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai] Afanasyevsky to Belgrade to get a specific implementation plan," a NATO official said, referring to pledges Milosevic made on Monday to President Boris Yeltsin.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told reporters in Moscow that Afanasyevsky and Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Avdeyev would leave Sunday for the Balkan region.

Afanasyevsky will hold talks with Yugoslav leaders in Belgrade and will also travel to Pristina, the main city in Kosovo, to meet leaders of its ethnic Albanian community, Rakhmanin said.

Avdeyev will visit the Albanian capital, Tirana, and Skopje, capital of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, to brief leaders there about the Moscow deal, he said.

In Kosovo, ethnic Albanians on Thursday welcomed a proposal by their exiled government for villages to defend themselves against Serbian forces -- a sign public sentiments are turning increasingly in favor of fighting for independence.

The growing support for militants in the secessionist province of southern Serbia comes amid a Serbian campaign that has driven some 60,000 people from their homes since March. More than 300 people have died in clashes between Serbs and militants.

In the latest evidence the crackdown has not silenced the shadowy Kosovo Liberation Army, Serbian sources reported two incidents Thursday involving actions by the separatist guerrillas.

The state-run Tanjug news agency accused militants of attacking two Serbian villages 50 kilometers west of Pristina early Thursday. The villagers fired back and there were no casualties, Tanjug said.

Indignation and concern rose Thursday among families of Yugoslav troops serving in Kosovo after the death of another soldier -- the sixth since the start of conflict in the breakaway province.

Several hundred parents and relatives of soldiers from different Serbian cities gathered at army headquarters in Belgrade, demanding return of their kin to barracks outside Kosovo.

Worried parents carried placards reading "Send back our sons from Kosovo," "We are for peace," "It was enough" and "Send officers' sons to Kosovo." They also demanded immediate information about their sons' whereabouts.

Yugoslav army officials claim that soldiers are deployed only on the borders between Kosovo and Albania, in order to prevent smuggling of arms and armed rebels into Yugoslav territory.