The Bosnia Crisis: Resurgent Russia: Yeltsin triumphs on the European stage

THE Russian Defence Ministry's official organ, Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star), yesterday blasted Nato for its air-strike ultimatum. 'If the West really wants peace in the Balkans, it must understand and accept the position of Russia: it must be treated as a great power and an equal partner, not just in words but in deeds,' said the publication, which earlier blamed 'Muslim extremists' for the attack on Sarajevo's Old Market two weeks ago that left 68 dead.

The ministry's message is essentially the same as that delivered to John Major earlier in the week by President Boris Yeltsin, which prompted Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a leading liberal daily, to run the following front page headline, 'Spectre of a new Cold War - by Monday Europe may be divided again'.

'Russia is using the crisis in former Yugosolvia to assert itself on the European stage, on the international stage as a political force,' says Ibrahim Djikic, who used to be number two in the Yugoslav Embassy, but left to set up a rival Bosnian mission. Mr Djikic would be a lot more excited about Russia's role as an honest broker in the Balkans if it would first agree to call his three-room quarters on Leninsky Prospekt an embassy, permit diplomatic plates on his scruffy Lada car, extend other courtesies of the Vienna Convention and, in short, acknowledge Bosnia's right to exist.

'The Russian position has been known for a long time: it supports Serbia,' says Mr Djikic. 'Russia has always defended Serbia and its interests.'

It is this tilt, of course, that gives Moscow influence among the Bosnian Serbs and produced what is being trumpeted as a diplomatic triumph: the withdrawal of heavy artillery from the hills around Sarajevo.

Mr Djikic, funded by Bosnian businessmen in Moscow and assisted by a lone secretary, is sceptical. He gets his news from Bosna-Press, a faxed sheet produced daily by the Moscow correspondent of the Bosnian newspaper, Oslobodenje. It ranges from the D-Mark price for petrol on the Sarajevo market to the latest casualties.

The main stimulus for Moscow's newly aggressive diplomacy is domestic. President Yeltsin, weakened by a far-right surge in parliamentary elections, wants to shake off accusations of meek obedience to the West and blunt the appeal of extreme nationalists.

Russia's special envoy, Vitaly Churkin, arrived back in Moscow hailing Mr Yeltsin's 'brilliant idea'. The chairman of the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, ex-ambassador to Washington Vladimir Lukin, spoke of a 'great success for Russian diplomacy'. Rarely mentioned is the fact that Bosnian Serbs accepted Russian persuasion only after the countdown to air strikes had begun.

Russia has brought a first real glimmer of hope, but it has also added a new element of volatile uncertainty. Moscow is divided about how far to push. Postfactum news agency reports that Russian paratroopers will move to Sarajevo only if Nato lifts its air-strike threat. Such a stance would match the position of many in the military, but it was dismissed by officials yesterday as a 'mistake'.

Mr Djikic, the would-be Bosnian ambassador, also gets confused. 'When the Russian Foreign Ministry needs something from me, the problem of diplomatic relations is never mentioned,' he says. 'But when I need something, it pops up again.'

Compared with the West's disarray, though, Russian policy can seem a model of a clarity.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Project Manager

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer - Java

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning digital publishing solution...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: NON-CONTENTIOUS (0-2 PQE) - A rare opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Financial Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Financial Analyst is required to join...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness