PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- Ignoring warnings from NATO and the dangers of minefields, ethnic Albanian refugees streamed into Kosovo Wednesday, encouraged by the mostly successful allied peacekeeping mission. Serbs in fear of retaliation frantically packed the Pristina bus station.
Roads leading north out of Kosovo were crammed with Serbs -- either Yugoslav soldiers departing under terms of the peace deal that ended the 78-day NATO air campaign or Serb civilians frightened of Kosovo rebels.Residents of villages outside Pristina showed NATO troops two suspected mass grave sites Wednesday that are believed to contain the bodies of 73 ethnic Albanians.
The state-run Tanjug news agency reported that all Yugoslav army units had left Pristina, Kosovo's provincial capital, saying peacekeepers helped escort some of the final 50 vehicles out.
The Yugoslav withdrawal from the zone extending from Pristina to Kosovo's southern border was largely completed by its midnight Tuesday deadline, except for isolated cases of broken-down vehicles, a NATO spokesman, Maj. Lewis Garneau, said Wednesday.
NATO gave the Serbs an additional 24 hours to vacate that zone due to road congestion, saying the Serbs were "making a serious effort" to comply with the timetable.
Under the deal, all 40,000 Serb forces are to be out of Kosovo by Sunday night; NATO said that 26,000 of the forces have left.
At Morini on the Albanian border, refugees poured across the border today, creating miles-long backups of cars, tractors, buses and vans. Many honked their horns and made victory signs. Overwhelmed Albanian border guards made only cursory checks.
Officials said 10,000 refugees returned Tuesday from Albania -- some 440,000 fled there beginning in March -- and thousands entered Kosovo from Macedonia. Far more were expected to leave later, said Judith Kumin, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
"Once this thing gathers momentum there's a snowball effect and you can't stop it," she said.
Refugees were returning despite warnings that they would find scorched villages, minefields and little food in their Kosovo homeland.
UNHCR set up way stations on the road between the Albanian border town of Kukes and the Kosovo city of Prizren to supply people with food and water during their return. UNHCR vehicles with tow ropes were on standby to help cars that broke down along the way.
"We are now in God's hands," said Ursim Gashi, a 26-year-old farmer on a tractor pulling a trailer jammed with relatives. "We'll be so happy to be back in our homeland we won't even need to eat."
Russia, meanwhile, announced it sent a third military convoy into Kosovo Wednesday from Bosnia even as Moscow said it wanted to solve a dispute with NATO over the peacekeeping operations.
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said a nine-vehicle convoy was carrying supplies for the 200-300 Russian troops that have occupied Pristina's airport since Saturday, coming in unexpectedly just before NATO forces entered.
But NATO said it was not aware of any such convoy.
A Russian convoy carrying food and fuel arrived Tuesday, raising tensions with NATO, which insists on commanding all peacekeeping operations in Kosovo through the five geographic sectors allocated to the United States and four other Western allies.
U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen met his Russian counterpart, Igor Sergeyev, in Helsinki, Finland, to discuss the issue.
Jakup Krasniqi, a spokesman for the KLA rebels, accused the Russians of causing too many problems: "The Russian troops that are not under the NATO command . . . and without the permission of the U.N. will be unwelcome here, and we will treat them as enemy forces."
The American contingent in Kosovo rose to more than 3,000 soldiers, along with 5,000 British and Canadian forces, 4,000 German and Dutch troops, 2,000 Italians and 1,500 French. Peacekeeping forces aiding in the refugee cause are to total nearly 50,000.
As the refugees made their way home, signs of the war that began February 1998 with a crackdown by Slobodan Milosevic's forces were everywhere.
France's Defense Ministry said Wednesday that villagers in Vlastica, southeast of Pristina, told soldiers about a grave containing the bodies of 13 people killed on April 30. A French soldier saw bones appearing to be human under the ruins of a house, the ministry said.
In Berisht, just north of Pristina, residents said a shallow grave held the bodies of at least 60 people. Dozens of large plastic bags lying near the grave appeared by their size and odor to contain more bodies.