Kosovo: still the seat of Balkan instability

The situation in Kosovo deteriorated sharply on March 17. Serbs and Albanians fought in fierce racially charged clashes on the streets of Mitrovica, which, in essence, ended in murderous attacks targeting the province's Serbian population. The spontaneous mass demonstrations that ensued in a number of Serbian cities show that the Kosovo problem is still burning, destabilising the situation in Serbia and Montenegro and the Balkans as a whole.

Following the 1999 NATO aggression, Kosovo was de facto taken out of Serbian territory and power in the province passed to Albanian extremists, who have since been pursuing, with the connivance of NATO peacekeepers, a course to achieve Kosovo's complete cessation from Serbia and Montenegro and the creation of an "ethnically pure" independent state. At least 200,000 Serbs, as well as Gypsies, Jews and representatives of other ethnic groups, have been expelled from Kosovo over the past few years. NATO-pampered Albanian separatism is now a serious threat to the entire Balkan Peninsula. The extremists have long been harbouring plans to create a Greater Albania, which would include, apart from Kosovo, the areas of Macedonia, Montenegro and Northern Greece populated by Albanians. These mad plans, of course, would lead to a serious revision of national borders, and the explosion of the situation in the Balkans, which, as two world wars show, is for good reason called the "powder keg of Europe."

The events of the past few days, the murders of Serbs, fatal attacks in Kosovo and retaliatory attacks in Serbia (fire-bombings of mosques and assaults against Muslims) show that all the talk about reaching interethnic accord is just fiction. On the contrary, it is obvious that interethnic tension has reached the point where the possibility of Albanians and Serbs coexisting can be ruled out. It seems that Vojislav Kostunica, the new Serbian premier and former president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, was correct when he said that there had to be an administrative division of Kosovo into cantons along ethnic lines. In current situation, this is possibly the only solution.

However, Kosovo's Albanian leaders categorically do not agree with his proposal. They do not want a new administrative division of the autonomous province, which in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 is an inalienable part of Serbia, but a complete, final and legally established withdrawal from Serbia and Montenegro.

It cannot be ruled out that Albanian extremists were behind the recent events in Kosovo, as they attempt to bring pressure to bear on the UN in a bid to make it recognise "the just and substantiated nature" of their demands. The UN has not yet accepted the idea of Kosovo's independence, demanding that the local authorities first of all, restore order and create conditions for the coexistence of people of various nationalities and for the return of refugees. The UN has made it clear that it will only be ready to talk about the Kosovo's status when these conditions have been fulfilled.

However, the province's leaders are not going to restore order there, even the relatively moderate president, Ibragim Rugova. The desire to establish order also does not apply to such extremists as Hashim Thaqi, the former leader of the terrorist organisation known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and now the leader of the so-called Democratic Party of Kosovo, which was created on the basis of the nominally disbanded KLA. This same can be said about another extremist, Ramush Haradinai, who is also a former KLA commander and now the leader of the party Alliance for a Future Kosovo. Indeed, the leadership of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia considered Hashim Thaqi, who was responsible for the notorious slogan "Kosovo Without Serbs!", to be a military criminal and repeatedly applied to the International Tribunal in the Hague to bring him to account for numerous crimes. However, the Tribunal did not react to this just request, thereby demonstrating its lack of objectivity and anti-Serbian bias.

The West is still pursuing a policy of appeasement with regard to the extremists. This is true of Macedonia, too, where Albanian extremists, not content with the concessions made to them, are demanding a confederate system for the country, in breach of the agreement with the Macedonian government they signed with NATO mediation. The events in both Kosovo and Macedonia show that appeasement is a very dangerous choice.

Russia believes that there can be no re-division of the Balkan's internal borders, and that separatism and extremism, whatever their political slogans, must not be indulged.

Moscow is convinced that in the search for a just settlement of the Kosovo problem, it is extremely important that the principle of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and Montenegro be observed. Moscow has repeatedly warned the Albanian community of Kosovo against taking unilateral steps to determine the final status of Kosovo.

The situation in the province and its further fate will depend on whether or not equality for all the ethnic communities in Kosovo and security for all the people who live there are ensured. Moscow believes that in this context, international structures, primarily the UN mission, have to take particular responsibility for this. Indeed, the UN mission should fulfil its obligations in the province in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which confirms Belgrade's jurisdiction over Kosovo.

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