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Russia Leaders Warn of World War

April 17, 1999

MOSCOW (AP) _ A leading Russian politician warned today that the United States and NATO could spark another Vietnam and possibly World War III if they send ground troops to Yugoslavia.

``In the event that NATO and America start a ground operation in Yugoslavia, they will face a second Vietnam,″ Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said. ``I do not want to forecast what is going to start then. I cannot rule out a third world war.″

Luzhkov said that if NATO ground troops are sent to Yugoslavia, Russia should consider breaking a United Nations-imposed arms embargo and supply military and technical assistance to the Yugoslav army.

Although Luzhkov has no direct say in the government’s actions, he is one of Russia’s most popular politicians and is a likely candidate in next year’s presidential election.

The United States has called up over 30,000 reservists and will add more planes to its forces participating in the NATO campaign, but officials have said that using ground troops to drive Serb forces out of Kosovo is not under consideration.

President Boris Yeltsin also warned NATO recently not to push Russia ``to military action, since that will certainly lead to a European war or even a world war.″ But he has said repeatedly that Russia will not become involved in the military conflict.

Meanwhile, Russia’s newly appointed envoy on finding a solution to the Yugoslav crisis, Viktor Chernomyrdin, met with Foreign Ministry officials today in an effort to come up with a solution to the Kosovo dispute.

Russia is eager to find a political solution to the conflict between NATO and Yugoslavia, but it apparently lacks sufficient power or influence with either side to achieve a breakthrough at this stage.

Also Saturday, a convoy carrying 25 metric tons of humanitarian aid left St. Petersburg en route to Moscow and, eventually, Yugoslavia. Russian authorities did not say who would receive the aid, which consisted of food and medicine. It was the second aid convoy Russia has sent to Yugoslavia.

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