Russian Missiles To Milosevic?

Jane's Defense Weekly reported Monday that Russia shipped parts for the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic shortly before NATO began its bombing. The report said Russians hid the components in railway cars full of scrap metal.

A spokesman for Russia's Rosvooruzheniye arms company, the official state weapons exports agency, called the report Â"non-scientific fantasies,Â" the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

But in the wake of the JaneÂ's report, Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree replacing the head of Rosvooruzheniye -- for allegedly maintaining close ties with sacked former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. Primakov was widely seen as a critic of close ties with Washington and the West.

Most Russians opposed NATO's bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, and expressed sympathy with the Serbian cause by sending humanitarian aid. But Russia said it complied with U.N. sanctions that forbid weapons sales to Yugoslavia, despite Serb requests for military aid.

Russian officials said NATO's losses in Yugoslavia would have been much greater if the S-300 had been deployed there.

NATO acknowledged losing two manned planes and several unmanned drones during its 78-day air campaign over Yugoslavia, which ended June 12.

The S-300 is a mobile radar and missile launch system designed to hit both airplanes and cruise missiles. The United States has opposed previous Russian attempts to export the high-tech weapon.

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