UN fires Russian general smuggling arms to Serbs

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The Independent Online
The Russian UN commander in eastern Croatia was dismissed yesterday for co-operating with rebel Krajina Serbs.

General Aleksander Perelyakin, who was ordered to leave immediately, apparently turned a blind eye to the movement of tanks and artillery across the border to Serbia and back into Croatia last month.

The general had clashed repeatedly with Belgian peace-keepers, once overruling a decision to maintain a check-point after the Serbs demanded that it be removed.

When asked whether General Perelyakin was fired because of soldiers and weapons crossing into Serb-held Croatia from Serbia, and because of smuggling and corruption in the UN-controlled Sector East, Michael Williams, a UN spokesman, said: "Yes, on both accounts".

Mr Williams would not discuss reports that General Perelyakin was refusing to give up his command. The Defence Ministry in Moscow said the General remained Sector East commander and "will only be changed in accordance with a plan". Russia's 1,400 peace-keepers in Croatia and Bosnia have been accused of black-marketeering, and being pro-Serb.

Mr Williams said the Belgian deputy UN commander would have temporary command of the 856 Russian and 896 Belgian peace-keepers in Sector East. In 1993, the Russian Sector East commander, Colonel Victor Loginov, remained in the area after his tour of duty and formed a trading company with a notorious Serbian paramilitary, suspected of war crimes.

In another sign of Serbian determination to test the UN's resolve, and that of its new commander in Bosnia, General Rupert Smith, Bosnian Serbs fired 17 shells yesterday into the centre of Muslim-held Gorazde, the UN-designated safe area in eastern Bosnia that Nato is mandated to protect.

Western and Russian diplomats hoping to advance the peace process had first to surmount the hurdle of how to reach Sarajevo in the face of Bosnian Serb refusals to guarantee the safety of planes landing at the airport. Late last night UN sources said they would probably try to fly the envoys in this morning.

Diplomats from the five-nation Contact Group visited Belgrade yesterday in a vain attempt to win Serbia's diplomatic recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina and are due in Sarajevo this morning for talks with the government. The airport has been closed since Saturday, when the Serbs fired at a US aid plane.

The five members - from Britain, the United States, Russia, France and Germany - held inconclusive talks with President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia yesterday.