Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on Kosovo
We thank SRSG Ziadeh for the briefing on the situation in Kosovo and the assessments shared.
We welcome Mr. Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia. We also listened to the opinion of Ms. Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz, though the dedicated most of her speech to Russian-Serbian bilateral relations (that are not Pristina’s business) rather than the legitimate concerns that were expressed here and Pristina’s policy.
Ms. Gërvalla-Schwarz tried to present the plan of consultations signed by the Foreign Ministries of Russia and Serbia as giving-up Serbia’s sovereignty and transfer of decision-making to Russia’s hands. Ms. Gërvalla-Schwarz, this is ridiculous or simply unprofessional.
Russia’s position on the issue of Kosovo remains unchanged. We stand for Belgrade and Pristina elaborating a mutually acceptable international legal framework on the basis of resolution 1244 of the Security Council. The solution should meet the interests of Belgrade and the people of Serbia, and also be approved by the Security Council.
The situation in Kosovo raises our growing concern. Over the past few months, the situation in the Province was on the brink of relapsing into an acute conflict more than once.
Supported by Western capitals, Pristina does not stop trying to take Serb-populated areas under control. However preoccupied the global community may be with human rights, the situation with observance of Serbs’ human rights does not seem to be anyone’s concern. The systemic policy towards physical displacement of the Serbs and the transformation of the Province into an ethnically pure Albanian space continues. Minister Dačić addressed this already. I will only add that out of the 372 thousand non-Albanians who lived in the region until June 1999, 209 thousand were forced to leave.
Special forces of the Kosovo police commit regular incursions in the north of the Province, erect strongholds on land lots that have been forcibly seized from non-Albanian local residents. Former law enforcement officers who are Serb by ethnicity are being prosecuted on far-fetched pretexts. Orthodox sites and burials get desecrated. Physical attacks on Serbs and their property have intensified. Since Albin Curti came to power in 2020, more than 300 acts of violence against Serbs were put on record while the perpetrators mostly escaped accountability.
Such is the reality on the ground. However we all understand that unless there is a negotiations process, proper agreements and mechanisms for the protection of the Serbs residing in the North of Kosovo (as well as those few who still reside to the south of the river Ibar), the current problems cannot be resolved.
At this point, we need to look back at recent history. 19 April marked ten years since the 2013 Brussels Agreement had been signed, the central point of which was establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM). But throughout this decade, the authorities in Kosovo have been evading implementation of this provision with impunity. The problems remain unresolved, because Pristina – we must put it straight – is not interested either in normalizing the relations or honoring its obligations. This is exactly why Albin Kurti demands groundlessly that the CSM should meet the region’s constitution, be “multiethnic”, have no executive competence. As a matter of fact, during all this time Kosovo-Albanians have been trying to substitute actual arrangements that had been made with something akin to a non-governmental organization. Such path must not be followed. Only a full-fledged community of municipalities could ensure basic rights and security of Kosovo’s Serbs, could become a prerequisite of socio-economic development of areas that they populate and preservation of their cultural identity. Ultimately, it could become a prerequisite for a real rather than evanescent progress with settlement.
We must first realize the true goals of Kurti’s policy before we give an assessment to oral agreements that Belgrade and Pristina made in Ohrid on 18 March on the two documents – “Agreement on Ways of Normalization" and an addendum on its implementation. We believe that the optimism of the UNMIK report regarding the prospects of these agreements is quite overstated. We remind that Belgrade (as clearly indicated by the Serbian leadership on numerous occasions) agreed to set forth a dialogue with Pristina on those points. However only should Serbia’s red lines be respected. Namely – non-acceptance of Kosovo’s unilaterally proclaimed “independence” and UN membership, and immediate establishment of a community of Serb municipalities as stipulated by the Brussels Agreements.
Pristina escalated tension again on 23 April by convening so-called municipal elections in northern Kosovo. Despite the refusal of the Serb majority to nominate candidates, the vote still took place under the pressure of the United States and European Union. As you know, the Serbs boycotted unanimously this mockery of a democratic procedure. Neither the miserable 3.5% attendance nor the absence of basic conditions for a vote prevented Pristina from calling the absolutely illegitimate elections a success and announce the “winners” – four Kosovo-Albanians who represent a negligibly small part of the population, the other 96.5% of which ignored this farce.
This was a provocative substitution of a normal electoral process with some sham that Pristina’s Western sponsors approved immediately. The US and EU connive at Kosovars usurping power prerogatives in the north of the Province, and seek to deprive the Serbs of their voice in the face of terror that they are exposed to.
So, Western states continue to fuel the disputes between Belgrade and Pristina. They keep exerting pressure on Serbs at all tracks. For example, in the midst of the confrontation in December 2022, the Czech Presidency of the EU Council accepted Kosovo’s application for a status of EU candidate. On 18 April, the European Parliament expressed in favor of easing visa issuance for Kosovo “citizens” which is supposed to enter into force no later that 1 January 2024. Same can be said about all-of-a-sudden consideration of Kosovo’s membership in the Council of Europe which took place on 24 April. The way it was held and some states’ voted “in favor” speak eloquently than words and show their true attitude to the United Nations and Security Council resolutions. In this case – to resolution 1244 which is fundamental for Kosovo settlement.
The UN Mission in Kosovo is also exposed to pressure by Kosovo-Albanians. Our Western colleagues would never allow the same level of pressure to apply to any other peacekeeping operation. It is our understanding that UNMIK must implement all its tasks to a full extent, have the required staffing and financial resources. We demand that the investigation into the details of detention in May 2019 of a Russian UNMIK officer Mikhail Krasnoshchekov by Kosovo-Albanian police who caused his severe bodily harm be expedited. Pristina’s arbitrariness as regards UNMIK personnel must be ruled out once and for all. This is what happened to a Russian national Andrey Antonov, whom Kosovo “authorities” illegitimately announced “persona non grata” in December 2021.
Clearly, the main task of the West is to subjugate the Balkans by all means possible, drag countries of that region in a joint military-political bloc. In such circumstances, statements by “Quinta countries” about stabilization of the region cannot be perceived as something they say sincerely. If this falls within their interest they will set this entire region on fire without second thought. NATO’s proliferating activity is another proof of that. In violation of UNSC resolution 1244, members of the Alliance contribute to a step-by-step formation of Kosovo’s pseudo army, enhance deliveries of weapons and equipment. Washington de facto privatized Camp Bondsteel, a base that was initially meant only for peacekeeping purposes. They do this unabashedly, as if everybody forgot the staging of the so-called Račak massacre which was used to justify NATO’s invasion of Yugoslavia, which was followed by mass bombings of the country with depleted uranium, huge casualties and devastation of civilian infrastructure. Disastrous damage was inflicted on the environment – suffice it to mention the report “Environmental impact of the war in Yugoslavia on south-east Europe” which was adopted at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in January 2001. The thing is that NATO was never truly bothered about this “collateral damage” as then State Secretary Albright called it. They are not bothered today either, which is confirmed by the deliveries of projectiles with depleted uranium by the UK to Kiev.
In the light of the 1999 events that we mentioned, we would like to focus on the trial against one of the leaders of the "Kosovo Liberation Army" Hashim Thaci and his accomplices, which started at a special court in The Hague in April. We regard it as almost the last chance to restore justice, even if a quarter of a century has passed since the atrocities committed by them. We hope that the criminals will have the punishment they deserve, and that “Themis” of The Hague will not repeat the catastrophic mistakes of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.