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Russian Diplomatic Convoy Attacked in Iraq

BY Admin  April 6, 2003 at 11:10 AM EDT

The Russian Foreign Ministry reported that there were wounded in the convoy, but had few details as to the source or the severity of the attack. The vehicles were reportedly headed towards Syria after Russia decided to shut its embassy.

In Qatar, U.S. Central Command, charged with running the war in Iraq, said it was investigating the strike, but believed the attack came in an area under Iraqi control.

“Initial field reports reveal that no coalition forces were operating in the area of the incident,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement. “Based on the reported location, the incident is believed to have taken place in territory controlled by the Iraqi regime. The inquiry into this incident continues and more details will be made available as soon as possible.”

Asked to elaborate on the situation, Central Command spokesman Brigadier General Vincent Brooks said the coalition military was aware the convoy was leaving Baghdad Sunday but had few details on the attack.

“We understand that this group of vehicles is still moving,” Brooks told reporters, adding he did not know if there had been “any coalition involvement, whether in fact someone was hit, what the circumstances were around a reported hit.”

In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it urgently summoned the U.S. and Iraqi ambassadors and asked both to take the necessary measures to guarantee Russian citizens’ safety in Iraq, investigate the circumstances of the attack and punish those responsible.

American Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said the U.S. government was already investigating the incident.

On Wednesday, Russia criticized the U.S.-led war, accusing the coalition of bombing targets very near its embassy in Baghdad and threatening the Russian citizens still working in the Iraqi capital.

Bombing early Wednesday had apparently struck targets only a few hundred yards from the Russian embassy and the foreign ministry in Moscow at that time summoned Ambassador Vershbow to discuss the situation.

“The Russian side demanded that American authorities take urgent and exhaustive measures to prevent such dangerous and unacceptable incidents in the future,” the Foreign Ministry said after the meeting. “The safety of personnel of the Russian diplomatic representation was in immediate danger.”

Despite the diplomatic standoff, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he hoped the war would end quickly in the coalition’s favor.

“It is not in Russia’s interest to see the United States defeated. What is in our interest is to see this issue put back within the framework of the United Nations,” Putin said in a televised interview Wednesday. “The sooner this happens, the better it will be for all countries involved in this conflict.”

President Putin, who was informed of the strike Sunday, had no immediate comment.