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    RUSSIA WORRIED ABOUT KOSOVO ESCALATION

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    MOSCOW, March 18, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow believes that unrest in Kosovo can flare up the situation in the province, said official spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry Alexander Yakovenko.

    "We are calling on the instigators of the unrest to stop it immediately," he said in an interview with the RTR channel on Thursday.

    In his words, Moscow was sorry to learn about the ethnically motivated riots in Kosovo, which have already led to victims on both sides and injuries among peacekeepers.

    "The sides should carefully address this problem," said Mr. Yakovenko. "Russia is ready to take an active part in solving the situation in Kosovo," said the spokesman.

    Unrest in Kosovo is believed to be prompted by the recent death of three Albanian children, who were allegedly pushed into the river by Serb teenagers. However, UNMIK (UN Mission in Kosovo) Press Secretary Derek Chappell has denied these allegations. Moreover, one of the allegedly killed children was found on Thursday afternoon. According to Mr. Chappell, the child said nothing about the Serbs' chasing the Albanian children.

    According to recent reports, the death toll of the ethnic conflicts in Kosovska Mitrovica and in other parts of the province has reached 20, with at least 250 wounded. The victims include KFOR peacemakers and UN international policemen.

    Kosovo Albanians have burnt dozens of Serbian houses, several Orthodox Churches and a monastery.

    Now only 70,000 Serbs are living in Kosovo, which was originally a Serbian province, and over two million Albanians.

    After an emergency session of the government, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica demanded an urgent session of the UN Security Council to consider the ethnic clashes in Kosovo.

    Earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Razov now in Belgrade announced Russia's condemnation of the unrest instigators. In his words, the international community should take effective measures to put an end to the bloodshed. Motives and reasons behind this need to be thoroughly analysed, said the diplomat.

    Mr. Razov said that UNMIK Chief Harri Holkeri "recommended that he cancel the scheduled trip to Kosovo for security reasons." Meanwhile, a RIA Novosti correspondent reports from Belgrade that the situation in the province somewhat improved on Thursday. According to representatives of the UN international police, no new clashes have been registered in Kosovska Mitrovica.

    At the same time, protests have been held in Serbia demanding that unrest in Kosovo be stopped. In some cities, the protests involved violence. In Belgrade, for one, protesters destroyed a mosque and set on fire a few cars parked nearby, despite the appeals of the Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Coastlands.

    They tried to throw stones at the US embassy but the police used tear gas and noise bombs to dispel the protesters.

    Serbian Interior Minister Dragan Jocic has stated that law enforcers would not allow further riots.

    Peaceful protests have also been held in Jagodina, Leskovac, Cacak and Bor.

    The initiative committee of citizens has announced its intention of holding a protest in front of the Serbian government building in Belgrade.

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