They will meet 400 Russians, also hastily redeployed from peace-keeping duties in Croatia to the north, after a change of heart by Moscow.
Two companies (280 to 300 troops) of the Coldstream Guards will move to the Bosnian capital. One of the units, No 2 Company, could move from Vitez today. A 60- strong mortar-locating troop equipped with Cymbeline radars, will fly out to Sarajevo from Britain, and extra military liaison officers and observers will join them. Cymbeline can detect the positions of 81mm mortars out to 10km (6 miles) and 120mm mortars - like that which killed 68 people in Sarajevo on 5 February - out to 14km.
The decision to redeploy troops already in Bosnia the short distance to Sarajevo makes sense if Sunday night's deadline for the withdrawal of Serb artillery around Sarajevo is to be met. But although that is the best way of making troops available quickly, Britain appears to have no plans to fill the gap they will leave around Vitez, where they have been escorting UN aid convoys.
The UN commander in Bosnia, Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Rose, is a former Coldstream Guards officer. UN sources recently told the Independent he expected the Guards to take a more active role. The Coldstream Guards have two months of their six-month tour left. The Royal Anglian Regiment, which will replace them, is not expected to move to Bosnia earlier than planned, so the British presence in central Bosnia will be substantially reduced.
The British currently have three companies in Vitez and one at Gornji Vakuf. No 2 Company will move to Sarajevo as a unit, and the second company will be formed from companies at Vitez, Gornji Vakuf and Split.
The details were being worked out yesterday, but it is likely the Coldstream Guards' commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Williams, will move to Sarajevo, leaving his second-in-command to run the reduced companies at Vitez and Gornji Vakuf until the Royal Anglians arrive. The mortar-locating troop will be formed from First Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, based at Tidworth and Third RHA based at Topcliffe.
Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of State for Defence, yesterday said 'General Rose and his Unprofor (UN Protection Force) troops . . . had done a magnificent job in bringing about the longest ceasefire in Sarajevo since the start of the conflict nearly two years ago. The action we are now taking will help him to establish the ceasefire more firmly and, we all hope, achieve the demilitarisation of Sarajevo'.
Russia's special envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said Russian troops would also be sent to the area: 'I know that the Serb heavy weaponry is going to be withdrawn,' he said. He had brought a letter from Boris Yeltsin to the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, and to the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, asking the Serbian side to withdraw its heavy weapons from Sarajevo.Reuse content