Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on the situation in Kosovo
We thank Special Representative of the Secretary-General C.Ziadeh for the briefing on the situation in the province of Kosovo. We welcome Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia M.Selakovic to this meeting. We also listened to the speculations by Ms. Donika Gervalla Schwarz. We would recommend Ms. Gervalla Schwarz to not try to exercise philosophical ideologemes or undertake some kind of cultural or geopolitical analysis. To be frank, you do not get it very well. I think you should focus on the situation in Kosovo rather than distract the Council with abstruse speculations about the international situation and Serbia’s foreign policy, which, as almost everything today, turns out to be administered from and by Moscow. We thank you for this flattering assessment, but let me correct this flaw of yours and provide you with a real rather than rosy assessment of the situation in Kosovo.
Kosovo remains the main hotbed of tension in the Balkans that undermines the efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region. The security situation in the province is also consistently worsening and this requires close attention to be paid by the international community and the UN Security Council.
Systematic violations of the rights of the Serb population started in 1999. And basically all these years we have been witnessing a creeping ethnic cleansing. After more than 20 years, the number of Serbs south of the Ibar River has drastically gone down. There are only small Serb enclaves remaining and they cannot defend their rights in any way. Let me give you an example. Before the conflict there were about 40,000 Serbs living in Pristina. Today there is barely a hundred. The only region where Serbs are still in the majority is northern Kosovo. But the Pristina authorities, headed by A.Kurti, are trying to scale new heights in oppressing Serbs. Creating impossible living conditions for the indigenous Serb population is seemingly their task number one. There are continuous acts of intimidation in Serb-populated areas and the threshold for the use of force is being lowered.
Since beginning of 2022 more than 100 cases of attacks on Serbs, their property, cemeteries, and religious sites have been registered – basically twice as many as a year earlier. Kosovo Albanians are patrolling the area of the water reservoir in Gazivoda, in the area adjacent to central Serbia, which constitutes a provocative step that cannot have been caused by any objective reasons. There is a ban on the use of status-neutral license plates by Serbs under the threat of vehicle confiscation for incompliance. This decision that Pristina made at the end of July brought the situation very close to a hot phase and almost resulted in bloodshed. Another dangerous milestone will be on the 31 October when the period for replacement of license plates is going to expire in accordance with the new rules.
There are problems having to do with the return to the rightful owners of Serbian real estate, which has been usurped by Kosovo Albanians. For many years, the property rights for the lands adjacent to the Visoki Dečani Monastery, which is on the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger, have been cynically violated. The pace of return of non-Albanian refugees to the province is still far from satisfactory, which is reflected in the Secretary-General's report. The local “authorities” are doing nothing to protect them. On the contrary, hatred towards Serbs is being encouraged. On the pretext of security concerns Kosovo police bases are being established in the north of the province, and very frequently on private territories belonging to Serbs.
Back in 2013, at Brussels-supervised negotiations, an agreement was made to establish a community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo. This was not an ideal, but nonetheless an acceptable way to ensure the rights of Serbs living in Kosovo. But Pristina refused to implement that, stating that the Serbs allegedly were “the most protected national minority in Europe”.
In reality, no one ever tried to compel the Kosovo authorities to implement the agreement, including the European Union, which acted as mediator. At present we can state that these mediation attempts totally failed. The longstanding inability of Brussels to make Pristina if not implement the agreements, then at least show that they are minimally capable of negotiations made all contacts doomed to failure. At the United States’ bidding, the official narrative of the European Union now has the infamous idea of “mutual recognition”. This is not only promoted by the leading European politicians, but also reflected in yet another resolution passed by the European Parliament on Kosovo. And this is a glaring example that the status-neutral position of Brussels has been revised.
At the same time, establishment process of the so-called Kosovo “army” is going on in violation of Security Council resolution 1244. We are also witnessing that major NATO players are deeply involved in this with London up in the front ranks and training the personnel.
Pristina is demanding further military assistance from the West. They are working to obtain yet another American base in the province, receive radio-electronic combat units and artillery with a more than 10-kilometer range. Kosovo’s military budget is record high. This year it exceeded 100 million Euro, which betrays the intentions of A.Kurti to be far from peaceful. There is an aspiration to involve the neighboring Albania in this warmongering. In August, Albania was offered to sign a “mutual defense treaty” with Kosovo.
Western countries act as though the Security Council Resolution 1244 did not exist. They keep cooking up so-called “alternative options” for the settlement that are convenient to Pristina. A glaring example of this legal nihilism was a French-German draft proposed in September. It was designed to force Belgrade to agree with Kosovo’s “statehood”. And this was not the only such case recently. Washington and Brussels concentrate their efforts on making Serbs yield on their national interests, on their sovereignty and their territorial integrity. In pursuing this goal, they resort to threats, blackmail, and ultimatums.
There are several other points that we would like to draw attention to. There is a UN peacekeeping operation in the province, which acts on the basis of Security Council resolution 1244 – the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). We fully support its work, as it is the most important guarantor of security in the province. We also understand how difficult are the circumstances in which it has to operate. At the same time, we expect that UNMIK makes realistic rather than neutrally rosy assessments of the situation in the province.
In May 2019, Kosovo Albanian police used force against a staff member of UNMIK M.Krasnoshchekov, who is a Russian national, and two other members of the Mission. He was brutally beaten, and those Kosovo Albanians who perpetrated this crime have not been punished. And this is in the province which boasts about its commitment to the “rule of law”. Another gross violation of international legal norms happened on the 31 December, when a staff member of UNMIK A.Antonov was declared persona non grata.
Furthermore, the Kosovo authorities made a number of decisions aimed at basically squeezing out from the province the personnel of the Pristina division of the Russian Embassy in Serbia, as well as our staff in UNMIK and the OSCE mission in Kosovo. We have informed the Secretary-General and SRSG Ziadeh about this outrageous overreach, and we expect these steps by the Kosovo authorities to be revised.
We call upon UNMIK to not ignore these outrageous cases of arbitrariness and to inform the Council about this on a regular basis in their reports. The absence of proper reaction to this from the Secretariat creates the feeling of permissiveness with the de facto authorities.
In conclusion, Mr. President, let me underscore that the Russian position on Kosovo remains unchanged. We advocate attaining a viable, mutually acceptable solution between Belgrade and Pristina that should be based on UNSC resolution 1244, compliant with international law, and endorsed by the Security Council.