Updated: 5 August 1999 KFOR Press Updates


5 July 1999

KFOR Press Statement

Delivered by Lieutenant-Commander Louis Garneau, KFOR Spokesman

Ladies and gentlemen welcome to this morning's press briefing.

The build-up of KFOR troops in Kosovo continues. 200 Polish troops have now joined MNB East. The total number of troops in Kosovo now stands at approximately 29,000, and over 36,000 troops in theatre.

This brings the total number of contributing countries with KFOR to 16, namely: the UK; France; USA; Italy; Germany; the Netherlands; Spain; Canada; Greece; Poland; Belgium; Turkey; Hungary; Portugal, Norway; and Denmark.

Now for an overview of events and incidents in the multi-national Brigades.

MNB North (France)

Yesterday a baker was shot by an unidentified assailant in Prilujze. the French Military Police has begun an investigation.

Mine clearing assets from the mobility support company have been clearing the Mitrovica football stadium for a match between France and a multi-ethnic local team.

MNB South (Germany; Netherlands; Turkey)

A German soldier was seriously injured in Prizren yesterday following an accidental weapon discharge. He has been Medavac to Germany.

There was an explosives attack in the monastery garden in Prizren early this morning (0030) only slight damage to property is reported. fortunately, there were no civilian or military casualties.

German Engineers have been involved in disposal of PMA-5 munitions at Zur, as well as marking of a minefield near Prizren airfield. German Engineers have also disposed of bomblets at Stimlie and of a 200 kg bomb at Hoca Zagrauska.

MNB East (US; Poland)

At around 3 pm yesterday afternoon, 3 injured civilians were discovered close to a US checkpoint, near the village of Budriga. Two suffered gun shot wounds and the other was wounded in the back. All three were Medevac to Camp Bondsteel, near Urosevac for emergency treatment. Sadly, one of the injured, a 14 year-old boy subsequently died of his injuries.

MNB West (Italy; Spain)

In Decane, a UCK checkpoint was disbanded by KFOR troops and the UCK members were directed to the nearest UCK assembly area. They were unarmed.

MNB Central (UK and Canadian troops)

At half past midnight in Pristina, an argument erupted between a small group of civilians. A grenade was thrown before KFOR troops could intervene. Three civilians are reported to have suffered minor injuries.

At a KFOR checkpoint yesterday on the road to Podujevo, a vehicle was stopped and three long-barreled weapons were found and confiscated.

The First Field UK Squadron have cleared a school in Podujevo, marked cluster bomb munitions at Bradas and continued refuse collection.

Turning briefly to Macedonia, there was a tragic road traffic accident which claimed the lives of a KFOR soldier, a US Military Police, and two civilians. The accident took place 15 km South East of Skopje.

The procurement of 8,000 sets of civilian clothing has been initiated today to assist former UCK members who have no civilian clothes to re-integrate the civilian world. Each set consists of 2 shirts and two trousers. The donor is USAID.

There will be a media opportunity today for the opening of the Cast Coal Mine in Obilic. Following negotiations led by British Royal Engineers, it is expected that several hundred employees from both ethnic groups will return to their jobs today.

Departure for media will be at 1:30 pm from the BRITFOR Press Centre. For more info please see Maj John Beer after the press conference.

Two announcements for tomorrow.

Mme Ogata from the UNHCR will be giving a press conference at the KFOR Press Centre at 10:30 am.

We will also have a law and order press briefing for the media at 11 am, or right after the press conference held by Mme Ogata. This briefing will be given by the KFOR and UNMIK legal advisors.

Question: At dawn on Thursday the home of the Serb Mayor of Mitrovica was raided and a pistol was seized and has he has been held since then. A question of whether he has been held in communicardo, is this normal procedure? Also is there anyone else who has been imprisoned for having a pistol in his home? I know that there have been UCK members who have been disarmed in the street and in some way arrested. One other issue about the disappearance of the Chief of Surgery at the Pristina hospital, which was about 2 weeks ago, or 10 or 12 days ago. This was Dr Komatovic, I believe. Is there an investigation going on and have you found out anything?

Answer from Lt Cdr Garneau: Any reported crime or abducting is investigated by KFOR and we will endeavour to give you the results of investigations as they are concluded. Your reference to individuals being detained for (inaudible) is that from Mitrovica? In that case then I think it was previously announced but just to confirm that Dragan Marjanovic has been arrested for possession of firearms and grenades. I understand that he has been or is about to be transferred to Pristina where his case will be heard by a judge.

Answer from Mr Kennedy: Only that you will find that in the statement that is being issued today, that individuals who are detained have the right to contact a defence counsel and the members of their family.

Question from Reuters TV: We hear a lot that we need more troops here in Kosovo until the deployment of Russia. How can we help them to come in?

Answer from Lt Cdr Garneau: Well KFOR is waiting for the Russians to arrive, I think their contribution of 3600 as announced earlier is a very positive news for us, they will make a significant contribution to the KFOR efforts of maintaining a secure and stable environment and we are looking forward to the deployment.

Question inaudible (Although it refers to Pristina Airport)

Answer from Lt Cdr Garneau: The Airport is open. The issue of them flying in and out right now is outside of the KFOR mandate. We understand that there are discussions taking place at a higher level between capitals and between NATO, essentially we have to wait for the outcome of that. Notwithstanding that, the reconnaissance continues with the Russian reconnaissance personnel into the 3 Multi-National Brigade areas, namely Multi-National Brigade North, South and East.

You have to understand that a lot of work has to be done on the ground to allow for a speedy deployment of the troops on the ground. As discussions are taking place at a higher level this, nonetheless, allows us to continue the reconnaissance work in cooperation with the Russians, rather this allows the Russians to do their reconnaissance work in cooperation with us. So that is a very positive thing that is going on, we understand that it is going well. I just want to add one more point. The working rapport that NATO has had with Russian troops, if we look back at SFOR in Bosnia it has been working extremely well. Once everything is decided we have no reason to doubt that it will work just as well here in Kosovo.

Question from Mike Schusster - National Public Radio: Follow up on the Russian troops. When you say that the discussions about their deployment are taking place at a higher level. Does that mean not here in Kosovo, but elsewhere between NATO and Moscow? On the issue of the airport this weekend. Can you shed any light on the fact that the Russians in effect were planning to but were blocked from bringing in flights? On this attack at the Monastery in Prizren. You described it as an explosives attack. Can you say what explosives were used, how many people were involved, in fact any more elaboration on this?

Answer from Lt Cdr Garneau: No I do not have any more information on the nature of the explosives used. We heard it just before coming in, but we thought it better to inform you of the information. I am sure that our liaison staff will try to get more information for you afterwards. With regard to the flights coming into the airport. As I said the airport is operational, and flights not arriving here is not in the KFOR control or operational control so I suggest that you speak to Moscow or Russian Officials on that issue. With regard to discussions taking place at a higher level, I don't think I need to expand on that anymore. It is not something under the steer of KFOR and I would rather let those officials speak for themselves.

Question from NBC: I have a question for Mr Kennedy. Many Serbs have returned to their jobs in the recent 2 days have been told by the newly appointed managers, which are mainly Albanian. That if they had been hired after 1990 they are not legally employed. That is not in accordance with Yugoslav Law that is supposed to be practiced here in Kosovo. So I wonder how you plan to resolve those labour issues that are affecting both ethnic Albanians who have been fired in 1990 and Serbs who have been fired now? Are you going to produce any Yugoslav legal experts on those issues? Are you going to consult them on how to treat those issues?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: Well first of all, at the risk of sounding like a broken record. In fact this is one of the most critical issues that we have in terms of getting a functional civil administration going. That is the reason UNMIK is seeking to create joint civil commissions in different sectors in order to assess the re-integration issue that obviously concern both major ethnic communities and all people in Kosovo. So attempts are bring made in various sectors to set up these commissions, it has not been a process that has been without hiccups.

We need to get to the right representatives of the different communities, the people that are able to represent the interests of these sectors who have the technical competence and also the knowledge that is needed to sit down and get down to work on a practical level on the concrete problems of re-integrating people into a work force and keeping the central services going. Whether this is in the Health Sector, Communications and the Media, in Education, Finance, Economy, all of those areas need to have joint civil commissions where we have a consultative mechanism so that we can have a smooth and orderly re-integration of people. That is one of the things that the civil affairs people of UNMIK are spending a great deal of time on. In terms of the applicability of Yugoslav Law.

Actually I would prefer you to address that to our legal advisors tomorrow. The question of Yugoslav law has come up most recently in these briefings has to do with the application of the Penal Code, in terms of how to deal with people who have been detained and people who are arrested for crimes. In that case Yugoslav Law is applying, except in instances where the provisions of Yugoslav Law are not compatible with the internationally recognised human rights instruments regarding due process. So if you can hold that question for tomorrow and they can perhaps answer that a bit better than I can.

Question from Polish Public TV: Maybe you can tell us some more details about the incident about the 3 people who were brought to the US Camp. What nationality were they, and maybe you know something more?

Answer from Lt Cdr Garneau: My understanding is that they were ethnic Serbs. That is al the information that I have for you.

Just to follow up from that. Generally speaking we have observed some acts of violence from both ethnic groups and a matter of consistency we don't like to point out which ethnic group is targeted perhaps more than the other, because we have found instances in both cases.

Question: You said that the airport is open. What flights have come in, if any and who is actually at the airport in control of what? Who is doing security? Who is doing Air Traffic Control? Are any flights going to be coming in and will we have access?

Answer from Lt Cdr Garneau: The airport management function is assumed by the Russians. That includes the actual physical security of the airport and the normal day to day functioning of the airport and it's infrastructure. KFOR assumes the role of airport operations, flight operations and that is under the control of a UK Brigadier who looks after that. There is no difficulty on either side on those divisions of responsibility. These last flights that came in, I believe, were last weekend and there were no other military flights that came in. Basically it is a wait out approach as we await more information from higher up.

Question: If it is operational can aid flights come in? It would be very helpful if the aid could come in direct to Pristina.

Answer from Lt Cdr Garneau: That is a very good question. I think a lot of it has to do with the absence of civil aviation regulations. As far as civilian traffic is concerned we will have to wait for the set up of the civil aviation structure. That does not mean that aid from the NGOs, for example, cannot be on board military flights. I don't have any more information.

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