Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, during the UN Security Council meeting on Kosovo
We welcome the participation in today’s meeting of Mr. Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, and share his serious concerns about the situation in Kosovo.
We thank Mr. Zahir Tanin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and his team for their work and for their objective briefing on the activities of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). The assessments we have heard show that the area continues to have serious, major problems that require urgent solutions as well as the attention of the international community.
Needless to say, we also listened attentively to Ms. Çitaku’s statement. Today a number of delegations painted a delightful picture of events that does not jibe with our appraisal, which I will share with the Council, if I may. T
he Kosovo project continues to reveal its flimsy foundations. There was new proof of the dysfunctionality of Kosovo’s artificially created institutions in the eruption of an internal political crisis there, as a result of which the winners of the extraordinary parliamentary elections of 11 June have been unable to get any work done for more than two months.
It appears that the politicians in Pristina, with no fear of accountability, are defaulting on the commitments they made in the framework of the Brussels dialogue. There has been no movement whatever to settle the fundamental question of the creation of a Serb-majority community of municipalities in Kosovo, which was agreed on as long ago as April 2013.
We urge the European Union mediators to intensify their efforts to resolve this issue so that the crucial guarantees of the rights of Kosovo Serbs and the area’s other minorities can finally be assured.
The problems related to the protection of Serbian religious and cultural heritage are as critical as ever. We are concerned about the fact that physical attacks against Serbs continue, arson is committed against their property and there are attempts to prevent refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) from returning.
There are serious concerns as well about the ongoing attempts by the Kosovo Albanian authorities to appropriate property belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church, as well as problems in ensuring the rights of believers. In that regard, we would like to draw members’ attention to yet more specific cases of illegal actions by the Kosovo authorities regarding Church property.
For example, the Kosovo Anti-Corruption Agency, which is leasing a building on a plot of land belonging to the only functioning Orthodox Cathedral in Pristina, Saint Nicholas, has not paid rent since November 2013. Arrears now amount to € 400,000 — a sum that the debtors, the Anti-corruption Agency, are not planning to pay.
The numerous attempts by the Serbian Orthodox Church to see justice prevail in the municipal administration have led to naught. Neither have appeals to the United States or the European Union. The Serbian Orthodox Church is planning to take the case to court, but even a positive verdict would not necessarily be carried out, in the light of the pitiful state of the judicial system.
Let me give another example. There was a decision ya Kosovo court, where international judges work, which confirmed the property rights of the Visoki Dečani Monastery, which, incidentally, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. However, the municipality leadership is not upholding the ruling, as it apparently runs counter to the interests of the Albanian people.
The Kosovo authorities are ignoring the request of the Serbian Orthodox Church to renovate a number of religious buildings, including the Church of Christ the Saviour in Pristina. The Kosovo Albanians are trying to erect an economic blockade against the Serbian Orthodox Church and deprive it of its property and means of existence. Such steps prove that Pristina’s policy to build a multi-ethnic society in the province has failed.
The Kosovo Albanian Administration is creating obstacles to Serbian pilgrims and IDPs visiting the province.
The situation should not go unheeded. Inter alia, in the context of Pristina’s considerations of a repeat request to join UNESCO, there is also a regrettable situation with the judiciary in Kosovo.
Kosovo Albanians judges are constantly replacing foreign servants of lady justice, and they are subject to political pressure. Often their verdicts are overturned by higher bodies or are returned for further work. The process is drawn out unjustifiably.
There are also serious concerns in the province with upholding the rule of law and combating corruption. The Kosovo Albanian authorities are not respecting agreements on the freedom of movement of Serbian document holders. Pristina considers such documents as void, in particular those issued by the Serbian municipalities in northern Kosovo, and ban their use for moving around Kosovo by forcing people to obtain Republic of Kosovo identification cards.
There has been slow progress in carrying out a fullscale investigation of abuses by the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army and in bringing to justice all of those perpetrators, irrespective of their current status. All the legal obstacles to the start of the work of the Specialist Chambers in The Hague have been eliminated. We trust that soon the Security Council will receive information on initial specific results of its work.
Curbing the spread of radicalism and terrorism in Kosovo is still of relevance. The territory of the province is being used for recruiting fighters to fight in the Middle East alongside extremists and to prepare them for terrorist acts in other countries.
We note the confrontational stance of our Western partners in Kosovo towards Russia. How else can we qualify the provocative statements made by representatives of NATO urging the Kosovo authorities to be ready to counter “the hybrid war”, which apparently Russia is conducting in order to expand its influence in the Western Balkans. The pronouncements that Russia is apparently seeking to redraw the borders in the Western Balkans are absurd blatant lies and glaring attempts to pit us against the people who are living in the region.
Let me remind the Council that in 1999 the United States and its NATO allies conducted a genuine hot war for which nobody has borne responsibility. The Kosovo Force (KFOR) Commander, Major General Fungo, speaking in the European Parliament, mentioned Russia as a main threat and challenge that Kosovo is encountering, along with inter-ethnic tension, religious extremism and problems with refugees and migrants. Once again, no one has managed to submit any concrete evidence in that connection.
Today it seems to have become trendy in some places to accuse Russia without any evidence whatsoever. That is called defamation.
For a long time, the KFOR command in Kosovo refused contact with representatives from Russia. We know that recently that was resolved, as Russian representatives were asked to go to the NATO headquarters in Brussels for a meeting with the KFOR command. That is certainly an effective format for discussion that is not trivial.
Avoiding contact with the people from a country that is a permanent member of the Security Council runs counter to the KFOR mandate, as stipulated in resolution 1244 (1999). That practice is absolutely unacceptable.
We urgently call for an end to the defamation of Russia and its foreign policy line, including in the Western Balkans. Our policy in the region is still based on respect for partners and their interests.
We note with regret that the gross imposition of the NATO logic in the region is clearly leading to the destabilization of an already fragile situation in the Balkans. For example, Montenegro has joined the Alliance, despite the opinion of people in the country, who they did not even deign to ask. It took more than two years to overcome the drawn out political crisis in Macedonia that was caused by foreign interference, but this was not Russia, but rather an attempt to overcome the desire of the electorate.
Once again, even though Russia was accused, Russia did not interfere. We see these as attempts to undermine the traditional friendship links between Russia and its Western Balkan countries. We are linked by many centuries of friendship and ties to those people.
Imposing NATO policies and trying to draw those countries into the alliance leads to an exacerbation of the manifold political, ethnic, religious and inter-ethnic issues in the Balkans, which are likely to lead to an increase in the potential for conflict in the region.
I turn back to Kosovo. In the current situation, we see no basis for raising the issue of revising the quarterly review and the format for considering the Kosovo issue in the Security Council. There is no room for decreasing the level of the United Nations presence in the province through UNMIK. The United Nations is playing a key, irreplaceable role in Kosovo’s affairs, and UNMIK remains a central instrument for international monitoring and for dealing with issues on normalizing the situation — in line with resolution 1244 (1999), which is still fully in force.
As for the idea of closing UNMIK, we would like to underscore that we are categorically against it. It is unacceptable for the Security Council to be guided purely by financial considerations in making decisions on the United Nations presence in Kosovo. Indeed, it seems to betray a desire to get rid of a structure that is able to provide an objective picture of what is happening in the province. We must not create a virtual reality and try to put a positive spin on a situation that, de facto, since the province separated from Serbia, has only deteriorated.