Yugoslav army troops and soldiers of the secessionist republic of Slovenia fought for control along the Austrian and Hungarian borders Thursday, and one government soldier was killed, officials said.
Two skirmishes were reported, the first between army and rebel militias since the republics of Slovenia and Croatia declared independence on Tuesday, prompting the federal government to send in troops to preserve the nation.The Yugoslav trooper was killed in a clash along the Hungarian border. Two civilians and two Slovenian soldiers also were injured in the skirmish, Slovenian officials said. They said the army was taking over one location along the Hungarian border as they spoke.
The first exchange of gunfire came earlier in the day in Jezersko on the Austrian border, said Slovenian radio. No casualties were reported there.
The Slovenians, who insisted on anonymity, said the government troops used hand grenades in the attack and took over the border station. They said some shrapnel sprayed into Austrian territory.
Earlier, federal army tanks moved to take over Slovenia's main airports and border posts.
The Serbian-dominated central government said it would crush opposition to the federation, long troubled by feuds among rival ethnic groups.
Slovenian leaders, who met in emergency session Thursday, promised resistance, and the republic's president urged federal soldiers to desert.The army clearly wants to cut Slovenia off from the outside and demonstrate that the republic remains a part of the federation. Securing the borders of Slovenia would be crucial because it borders Italy, Hungary and Austria.
Croatia borders Hungary alone, and federal troops there apparently were limiting themselves to trying to prevent fighting between ethnic Serbs and Croats. Ethnic clashes in the republic killed seven people on Tuesday and wounded 13 others.
The latest bloodshed raised the toll from Serb-Croat violence since May to at least 29 people.
Slovenia's president, Milan Kucan, warned on television that the republic's militia would respond with "all methods" to any "act of aggression" against his "independent state."
In a defiant gesture, the Slovenians cut off food, water and electricity to a Yugoslav military base near their capital. Slovenian radio also warned that Slovenians would mine "obstacles and communications links" if the federal troops continued to move against them.
In an effort to maintain normal conditions in the capital, Slovenia's information minister broadcast an appeal to people to go to work as usual. But delivery disruptions left many stores without supplies.
In Washington, Secretary of State James Baker says Yugoslavia is a "powder keg" heading for disintegration.
In a speech to the Gannett Foundation Wednesday night, he offered U.S. support for "greater autonomy and sovereignty" for the rebellious republics, provided the country's unity and internal borders are maintained.
Baker said change must come through negotiation and dialogue, not by force.
Baker appeared at the Gannett dinner to support its program to promote freedom for the news media in Eastern and Central Europe and in the Soviet Union. He called for investment as well as contributions of newsprint, computers and other equipment.