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Updated: 17 August 1999 KFOR Press Updates

Pristina,
Kosovo

7 July 1999

KFOR Press Statement

by Lieutenant-Commander Louis Garneau

Good morning everyone,

We had not had a chance to present with you the outcome of the Joint Implementation Council meeting last Monday between KFOR and the UCK. of Monday

The UCK continue to be broadly compliant with the Undertaking. We are very pleased to note that we have made good progress towards UCK resettlement and KFOR welcomes the news that individual members of the UCK will be involved with NGO de-mining efforts.

Individual members of the UCK may volunteer for work with the NGO de-miners providing they can meet the required standards. They will be able to apply through UNMACC (UN Mine Action Co-ordination Centre) through their UCK liaison officer.

Furthermore, a UCK resettlement programme starts today with initial job assessments in the Assembly Areas. It also includes the provision of civilian clothing to those uniformed members of the UCK in the assembly areas who wish to return to the community but do not have civilian clothes.

Now for totals at Weapons Storage Sites, controlled by KFOR: there are now 1700 small arms, including rifles; grenades; pistols; and some 190 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines.

As far as to the number of KLA members in the Assembly Areas, there are now 4380.

Highlights of yesterday's and overnight reports from the Brigades are as follows:

At 2 pm yesterday the Yugoslav Army Liaison Officer advised the Joint Implementation Council that a surgeon and another man travelling from Gnjilane to Serbia (on the road to Conculj) had apparently been fired upon after driving through a UCK checkpoint. Apparently, the passenger was hit, and the driver continued into Serbia where he was to have been taken to a hospital. US soldiers are investigating but so far found no evidence of a checkpoint, or shots being fired. We have been unable to speak with the alleged victims who are reportedly in Serbia.

At 5:30 yesterday afternoon, in Lipljan, 10 Kosovar Serbs doctors and nurses we reportedly assaulted by 4 Kosovar Albanians, inside the town's medical clinic. The Royal Military Police is investigating. No arrest were made.

At approximately 10:45 pm last night, a Canadian military Griffon helicopter from 408 Squadron was fired upon with tracer bullets while conducting a patrol over Pristina. Neither the helicopter nor the crew members were hit.

At approximately 11 pm last night in Urosevac, a Kosovar Serb woman approached a Greek checkpoint and claimed that 3 men with masks had beaten her and her husband. A patrol went to her home where they found the husband who appeared to have been badly injured. He suffered internal bleeding. The man was taken by KFOR to the Pristina hospital.

Although the situation has progressively improved since we arrived, such acts of violence are reprehensible and we strongly condemn them.

Only three weeks ago KFOR had entered a turbulent situation in Kosovo. Looking at the situation now, the Yugoslav forces have withdrawn, the KLA is demilitarising and its members are gradually returning to work in their homes and villages. And, hundreds of thousands of refugees have returned to their home. The healing process has started and will continue for years to come, no doubt.

But let me give a warning to those who seek vengeance and take the law into their own hands. KFOR and the UN will not, I repeat, will not tolerate acts of violence. We are steadily increasing our presence throughout Kosovo and working very hard to maintain a secure and stable environment. We now have some 30,000 troops in Kosovo, and the projected total is for some 45,000 KFOR troops to be in over the next few month. As well we now have deployed some 400 military police officers with several hundred others arriving. And the UN civilian police will be taking over law enforcement duties.

The people of Kosovo must, I repeat must, now turn to peaceful means to resolve their differences. The conflict is over and KFOR and the UN are here to ensure it remains this way.

Question from Kosova Press: One for UNMIK. 2 days ago when Baldor visited Payer. Duscoc Milanocic who is a member Franky Unit, a paramilitary unit, who was apparently harboured at the Monastery and was snuck out with 5 priests in a car marked Press. The Italian units there were informed of this. I would like to know first of all if KFOR has heard of this? Secondly if this is true how far can UNMIK rely upon the Serb religious community to cooperate in handing over suspected war criminals? Question for KFOR on the soldiers involved in the 2 deaths in Pristina during the celebrations are these Paratroopers on the beat again, or have they been asked to remain on base until further investigations can clear their culpability.

Answer from Lt Cdr Garneau: In answer to your second question. Our understanding is that the weapons of those soldiers had to be taken for investigation purposes, for ballistic analysis. Hence, since all weapons are personal and need to be calibrated for each individual they do not have their weapons and so are not conducting patrols at this time, they have been reassigned to other duties within their units. With regard to your first question. I am not aware of that incident or situation developing but I would certainly like to get those details from you afterwards and we will look into it.

Answer from Mr Kennedy: As far as your question addressed to UNMIK on that point. It is also news to me so if you would like to give me those details I would be happy to check up on it. We are not aware of that situation. I would also point out that Mr Dole's visit and his meeting with individual leaders was entirely in his own hands. UNMIK had nothing to do with the organisation of his visit or his programme.

Question from Mike Schusster from National Public Radio: I have a question about KFOR policy and its relation to local authorities. There was in incident a few days ago in Istock where 6 Serbs asked for protection from KFOR and KFOR's Spanish troops asked an alleged local authority to protect them. Four were found dead the next morning and 2 were missing. Is it the policy of KFOR troops in cases like this to provide the protection themselves or ask others, locals, to provide them? What is UNMIK's view on situations like this, Kevin?

Answer from Lt Cdr Garneau: I am sure you appreciate that we cannot provide protection, armed protection, for ever citizen of Kosovo, that would be unrealistic and impossible to achieve. Second point is that we provide collective security for the people of Kosovo, which means that we patrol the streets, towns, the villages and we respond as quickly as we can to reported acts of violence, or acts of violence that we can stop, when we see it, or that we can prevent. I do not have the specifics of this case, but normally when someone requests protection it is the Commander on the ground who has to make the assessment based on the nature of the request, then based on the threat assessment that he makes whether there is clear evidence that individuals are individually targeted.

We have in previous cases provided protection to individuals that we knew were directly threatened. Otherwise the second option is to guard the street, guard in front of the house, but normally that is really left to the Commander, but on a case basis we cannot guarantee protection. I think that everyone appreciates the realities that we have to deal with, and we cannot do that. All in all if we look at the situation we have provided a secure environment for the people of Kosovo. It is unfortunate that incidents, acts of violence take place, the only satisfaction we have is to see that incidents are gradually being reduced and people are resorting to peaceful means to resolve their differences and gradually return to a productive life in society.

Answer from Mr Kennedy: I think there are 2 parts to UNMIK's view on this. First of all as you are all aware the Special Representative of the Secretary General has not ceased to call on the leaders of all communities to refrain from violence. He has pressed that point with them and he brought them together from both communities to issue a joint statement, ultimately on security last week and he is working on following through and establishing the mechanisms that were called for in that statement. In order to ensure that this is followed through and that word gets out on the ground that violence against any group or any individual is simply not acceptable.

Having said that I think he is quite pleased and has to congratulate KFOR on the decree that it has which managed to maintain a stable environment. It also has to be recognised that where people are intent on violence there is virtually no force that could be deployed that could prevent every act of violence. Therefore this issue of restraint and of respect for human life and fundamental human rights has got to be the basis for moving forward in Kosovo. The third thing is that a lot of this will, of course, depend upon the presence on the ground of international personnel.

As you are all aware the UN Mission is barely 3 and a half weeks old and a good portion of that time has been put into assessing the situation on the ground and determining how best we can deploy. We have just 35 civilian police on the ground today with 40 expected on Thursday and a further 40 on 11 July 99, and we are trying to deploy people out into the districts and ultimately down to the local level as quickly as possible. We have 40 experts that are beginning to arrive this week to deal with various elements of civil administration.

Our hope is that as the number of these personnel from UNMIK are deployed throughout the territory that this will have a salutary effect on the violence, in that when people do feel threatened there will be a greater international presence in the area. That we may be able to intervene, to calm situations down and to diffuse situations. Although the bottom line is that unless there is a concerted effort on the part of political leaders as well as on the part of individuals to restrain themselves, to control their emotions, and to establish conditions in which a UN International Police can begin to start establishing stability at the community level. There is really very little we can do to stop random acts or unpredictable acts of violence against individuals.

Question from Jonathon Marcus from BBC: Two questions regarding KFOR. One now with the fuss with the Russians resolved, the airport open and so on. Can KFOR finally give us details on exactly where in the 3 MNB's that the Russian Battalions will be located? Secondly, you gave as figure of some 30,000 troops here, 45,000 in theatre over then next few months. As I understood it the total figure would be 55,000, that means that you are a little over half way in your deployment. Can you give us any sense on whether there is a time for getting the remaining force in due course?

Answer from Lt Cdr Garneau: Right, to your second question: the number of 45,000 I gave relates to the total number of troops in Kosovo proper and that is an approximate number, I don't have the exact figure for you. The total of number in theatre, Kosovo/Macedonia is to be 55,000 but in Kosovo proper it will be slightly less then that, because we need the support elements for our logistics support back in Macedonia to achieve our mission and our mandate. To return to your first question on the Russian deployment.

Yesterday I gave the 3 areas where the Russian Battalions are expected to deploy and I will be happy to give you that after the press conference. I do not have the exact names in front of me but essentially we are looking at an opstina in the Eastern part of the US Sector, an opstina in the Southern part of the French Sector and 2 obstinars in the North of the German Sector. Notwithstanding that, you have to take into consideration that the reconnaissance are continuing on the ground with the Russian contingent commander and his staff.

They are assessing best where those elements to specifically deploy and they have to discuss those issues with the respective Brigade Commanders. They need the assessment reports from the Brigade Commanders and the staff there to see how that can translate into actual troops on the ground. There could be adjustments that are made to those opstinas but in the end the news is that they, both NATO and Russia, have agreed to the deployment of the 3,600 troops. That is not changing and we are very much looking forward to the significant contribution of the professional Russian peacekeepers on the ground.

Question from Spanish News Agency: How is it possible that the number of UCK members in the assembly areas has gone up in the past week? Theoretically they are all there, or have gone back to civilian life and the ones that are already in these assembly areas. How many of those would be deciding to leave the organisation? Therefore how is it possible that it has risen? About this incident, you said a surgeon and one other person were fired on up near the border with Gilani going to Renja. Can you give us any more about that, do you know if it was a surgeon that was hit? For Ron. I would like to ask about the Serb refugee counts. How many have left, is the flow dropping or rising? Perhaps Ron or Kevin could give us some idea of what percentage of the Serb and Gypsy population is left in Kosovo? What percentage is still in their homes at least?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: I am afraid we cannot give you numbers, as you know we don't have a census at this point, but we have some numbers, of course, that have been provided by Belgrade authorities about the estimated number of people who have gone to Serbia from Kosovo, but we don't have a fix on exact numbers of people who have remained and where they have remained.

Answer from Lt Cdr Garneau: You will recall from last week the numbers were relatively the same. Two points. First point is that we do not judge the success of the demilitarisation of the demilitarisation process by the number of people in the assembly areas. We merely give you that number as information for you. The success of the demilitarisation is the absence of the UCK members on the streets, in uniform and carrying weapons and we are happy as I said. Especially was noted at the Joint Implementation Council Meeting with the UCK that we are very satisfied with the demilitarisation process. The number varies because as you have people coming into these assembly areas others are leaving because they are demilitarising. We wouldn't expect UCK members to stay in these areas for the whole 90 day period. They want to get back to a normal life and go back to their families and start working. So what KFOR is doing is facilitating that process, trying to accelerate it as much as possible with the re-integration into society. Do not read too much into those numbers, I would say, it is to give you an idea as to the numbers of people in there.

Answer from Mr Redmond: Although the Belgrade Government say that there are 70,000 registered Serbs who have left Kosovo. The day before yesterday the Serb Commissioner for Refugees said that the number is actually closer to 100,000 based on the amount of assistance that is being provided to the population. We have no reason to dispute that figure as we know it is substantial. There are also an estimated 20,000 that have gone to Montenegro and about half of those have reportedly gone on to Serbia as well. So these are figures based from the Serb Commissioner for Refugees. As far as Roma we don't have a firm fix on numbers remaining here either, we know there are approximately 5,000 down here in Kosovo Polije at the school, basically a camp that has been set up by the people themselves, the conditions in there are very, very bad. We are worried about Health and sanitation problems, but amongst that population about 1,000 of them are estimated to be from the Kosovo Polije the others are coming from surrounding areas and more are arriving everyday.

Question from Richard Lloyd Parry of the Independent: I realise that this may not be an easy to question to answer, but please answer it in any way that you are able. How much the Kosovo related operations of KFOR, UNMIK and the UNHCR have cost so far? How much is it expected to cost over the next 3 to 6 months.

Answer: No numbers from KFOR.

UNMIK Budget is being submitted to the UN for ratification. No numbers on the expenditure to date on the advance mission. Expenditure over the next 3 months on salaries is 30,500,000 DM's to cover for a work force of approximately 50,000, at an average wage of 210 DM per week.

UNHCR programme is costing approximately 10,000,000 Dollars a week, between April and the end of this year the estimated budget is 380,000,000 dollars. We have receive approximately one third of that. We have been down to the point where we have had approximately 2 days worth cash. At the moment we have enough money to get us through the first 3 weeks of July.

Question: A couple of question reference the Russian detachment. Has the Russian General that arrived yesterday now officially taken over? Do we have any figure on the number of Russian Soldiers that arrived yesterday and if they will be patrolling on their own or in mixed patrols? One final question on the water situation in Pristina. Do we have any idea of what is causing water shortages and any idea of a time frame on getting that re-established?

Answer from Lt Cdr Garneau: Yes the Russian contingent Commander is the one that was present yesterday. With regard to the total number of Russian troops on the ground it is presently at 300, airborne elements arrived yesterday, about 50 in total. They will remain concentrated in the airport and the Kosovo Polije area. Essentially the airport, however they are doing some reconnaissance into the Kosovo Polije in preparation for the deployment of their logistics base. With regard to their role, I think it is quite clear that the Russians will have their own areas to patrol and they will fall under the tactical control of the Brigade Commanders. Meaning that the Brigade Commander has the power to direct and prioritise their task and to de-conflict them as required.

Answer from Mr Kenndy: I will have to check on the status of the water. Remainder inaudible due to technical problems.

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