SFOR ready to step in as Russians leave Bosnia
May 29, 2003
CAMP UGLJEVIK, Bosnia and Herzegovina — The Russian Military Contingent lowered the flag Wednesday on its seven-year peacekeeping service in Bosnia.
The unit, which covered the northeastern part of Multinational Brigade North, announced late last year it would be leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Russian authorities gave normalization in the country as the reason for their departure.
The transition from the Russian contingent will be “very smooth and seamless to the population” since Stabilization Forces has spent the past several weeks in the process, said Lt. Gen. William Ward, peacekeeping force commander.
“SFOR is reorganizing at this time, so no vacuum is created when the Russians pull out,” said Maj. Jeff Coverdale, a Multinational Brigade North spokesman.
A plan to cover the former Russian section was already being prepared on the day of the ceremony, but it is not finalized.
Coverdale could not specify which troops will be in charge of the former Russian area of responsibility or if they will be moving to Camp Ugljevik.
The fate of the camp has not been decided, either.
Almost 40 nations still have peacekeeping troops in Bosnia.
Russian forces reached an all-time high of about 1,500 troops in Bosnia in 1996, during the first year of the mission, and remained at that level until 1999. Then the number started to decline, reaching a low of 300 troops at the time of their departure.
“Your successful activities not only supported the prestige of the Russian Federation armed force, but also demonstrated the effectiveness of cooperation with military contingents of different countries including the cooperation of Russia and NATO,” Col. Sergey Mikhailovich Shakurin, commander of the last Russian Military Contingent rotation in Bosnia, said to his troops during the ceremony.
Ward commended the Russian troops and their contribution.
He pointed out that the Russian troops’ departure was “a very positive sign of the progress of this country.”
The number of Stabilization Troops continuing the peacekeeping mission should remain at around 12,000, Ward said.
“In no way does [the Russian pullout] mean that the commitment of NATO to ensuring a safe and secure environment here is any way at all reduced,” he said.