Blasts In U.S. Sector Of Kosovo

A series of late night explosions rocked the American sector of eastern Kosovo, killing two people and injuring four, one critically, NATO said Wednesday.

Eight to 10 blasts occurred late Tuesday near Donja Budriga village, three miles south of Gnjilane, according to Pfc. William Patterson of the U.S. military press office at Camp Bondsteel. He did not say whether the victims were Serbs or ethnic Albanians.

Patterson said the critically injured victim was evacuated to an American military clinic near Urosevac.

The explosions occurred one day after Russian soldiers patrolling in the American sector shot and killed three Serbs after they disregarded orders to stop beating two wounded Albanians and instead opened fire on the peacekeepers.

Those incidents have raised tensions in Kosovo in the run-up to the scheduled Sept. 19 demilitarization of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the ethnic Albanian force that launched a guerrilla war against Yugoslav troops in the weeks preceding NATOÂ's 78-day bomb campaign.

NATO stopped its air bombardment on Yugoslavia after President Slobodan Milosevic accepted a U.N.-sanctioned peace agreement, which provided for 40,000 NATO and Russian peacekeepers to maintain security in Kosovo.

The latest violence occurred as Russia stepped up its criticism of NATO's role in Kosovo. In a statement Tuesday to the ITAR-Tass news agency, Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov accused NATO of failing Â"to ensure the security of people of different nationalities residing in the territory, primarily non-Albanians.Â"

Ivashov said Moscow was dissatisfied with the pace of disarming the KLA. The United States, however, has offered the KLA a new role as the Â"Kosovo Corps,Â" a lightly armed force that would respond to natural disasters and assist in security missions.

Â"There is no serious disarmament of the KLA, and it is impossible to speak about regional stability without that,Â" Ivashov said.

Russia's complaints are expected to figure in talks in Moscow next week between Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev and U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen.

International attempts to bring peace to Kosovo have been confounded by a wave of violence by ethnic Albanians seeking revenge against Serbs for the 18-month crackdown that left 10,000 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced before NATO intervened.

Most of the more than 200,000 Kosovo Serbs have fled since NATO troops replaced Serb forces in the province.