Victorious Yeltsin joins the anti-Serb chorus: Serbs find themselves isolated as the international community runs out of patience and steps up efforts to halt fighting in Bosnia

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The Independent Online
FRESH FROM his victory over domestic opposition, President Boris Yeltsin yesterday brought down the might of Russia upon Bosnian Serbs, condemning them for rejecting the Vance-Owen plan, and saying they would not be able to hide behind the shield of Communist and nationalist forces in Moscow.

'The Russian Federation will not protect those who resist the will of the world community,' Mr Yeltsin said in a statement. 'Serbian nationalists and other participants in the conflict who resort to force will come up against a tough rebuff in the United Nations.'

The statement ends a period of uncertainty in the international arena, marked by a Russian abstention in the UN Security Council vote for tougher sanctions against Serbia. The implementation of the sanctions was deliberately held up so as not to provide ammunition for Mr Yeltsin's opponents in Sunday's referendum, who repeatedly accused the President of snuggling up to the West.

But, buoyed by overwhelming popular support in the vote, Mr Yeltsin signalled yesterday that in future UN decisions over Bosnia, Russia would side unambiguously with the West. 'The unity of the permanent members of the Security Council, of the EC, of all peaceful states and international organisations is necessary in these conditions . . . The time has come for decisive measures to quell the conflict.'

At the same time, the President fell short of urging a military solution, calling instead for more talks, the stationing of UN observers in Bosnian hot-spots, and the convening of another international conference on the former Yugoslavia. The possibility of sending troops from Moscow to enforce peace in Bosnia was also excluded yesterday by the Deputy Defence Minister, Colonel-General Georgy Kondratev, who said: 'Russia does not plan to increase (its) military presence in the conflict area.'

The fear of Russian soldiers dying in Bosnia has strengthened the arguments of MPs opposed to Mr Yeltsin. 'The goal of some Western governments is to bring Russia to the point when Russian troops will be used in so-called 'peace-keeping operations' in Yugoslavia,' Iona Andronov, deputy chairman of parliament's foreign affairs committee, said. 'I am against any serious involvement in any Western adventure in Yugoslavia . . . We paid heavily for Russian involvement in past wars.'