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Russian envoy urges OSCE mission in Kosovo to react to crimes against Serbs

Alexander Lukashevich named the protection of rights and interests of non-Albanian minorities among key tasks of the mission and its mandate

VIENNA, October 12. /TASS/. The Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE)’s mission in Kosovo should immediately respond to threats and crimes against this region's Serbian population, Russia’s OSCE envoy has said.

Alexander Lukashevich told the OSCE Permanent Council meeting in Vienna on Tuesday evening that the impartial and neutral work of the OSCE mission was becoming more and more important amid the extremely complicated situation in the region. He identified the protection of rights and interests of non-Albanian minorities, first of all the Serbian population, as one of the key tasks of the mission and its mandate.

He added that aggressive statements and moves by the Kosovo Albanian leadership against the Serbian government encourage the atmosphere of lawfulness and impunity for crimes against the Serbian population, with theft and misappropriation of their property, physical and verbal attacks and vandalism still remaining a routine occurrence in Kosovo.

"Illegal actions against Serbian children and young people in the south of the region, which are now on the rise, are particularly alarming. The OSCE mission should immediately react to all such incidents and ensure that the Kosovo authorities punish those guilty," he said. "The task of the OSCE’s presence on the ground is not only to assist the creation of necessary institutional and legal guarantees of political, social, language, cultural and religious guarantees to the non-Albanian population, but also to ensure the practical implementation of these laws."

Lukashevich also condemned the inaction of NATO and EU missions in the region, which distanced themselves from ensuring the security of Kosovo’s non-Albanian population.

"We condemn the passive approach of the international missions in the region - the NATO Mission in Kosovo (KFOR) and the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo. They have distanced themselves from ensuring security of the non-Albanian population of Kosovo, or maybe even cover up the lawfulness in the region," the Russian diplomat said.

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin earlier said that the NATO mission was aware of the recent Albanian provocation in the north of Kosovo, during which more than one hundred Kosovo commandos invaded Serbian enclaves in the north of Kosovo in breach of international treaties.

According to Lukashevich, this line of conduct undermines Serbia’s trust in the NATO mission and international organizations in Kosovo and Metohija.

The Russian diplomat also said that the "ostentatious invasion of the Kosovo police special forces into the Serb-populated areas" was "carried out in breach of existing agreements between Belgrade and Pristina with an evident goal of putting pressure on Serbia."

He also recalled the March 26 incident in Kosovska Mitrovica, during which when the director of the Serbian Government’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Juric, was detained and beaten up by Albanian special forces, and the January 16 murder of prominent Serbian politician Oliver Ivanovic.

"Once again, we have been shown that attempts to gloss over the existing longstanding differences there [in Kosovo and Metohija] will only deepen the Kosovo crisis," he said. "Kosovo-Albanian separatists, who enjoy support from the outside no matter what they do, demonstrate their total reluctance to search for a solution to settle this frozen conflict jointly with Belgrade. Pristina still relies on intimidating Serbs in an attempt to drive them out of the region."

On September 29, Albanian commandos took positions around Lake Gazivoda, took control of the Gazivoda hydropower plant and intruded into the Ecology and Development Center in Zubin Potok. According to Serbian Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric, the move was aimed at ensuring the security of the self-proclaimed Kosovo’s leader, Hashim Thaci, during his visit to the region’s north. In response, the Serbian president put the country’s armed forces and special police units on high alert and voiced protest to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Serbia’s autonomous province of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in February 2008. In 2010, its independence was recognized by the International Court of Justice (CIJ). Kosovo claims to have been recognized by 117 countries so far, while Serbia says Kosovo enjoys the support of 105 nations. More than 60 countries, including Russia, China, India, Israel and five EU member states, oppose Kosovo’s independence.

Over the past several months, Belgrade and Pristina have been actively discussing a compromise solution related to border changes and an exchange of territories. The United States backs this idea, insisting that a final deal should be reached on changing the borders of Serbia and the unrecognized republic. German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposes border changes in the Balkan region, stressing that all regional states have the prospect of joining the European Union.