|Updated: 27 August 1999||KFOR Press Updates|
KFOR Press Update
by Major Roland Lavoie, KFOR Spokesperson
Once again the overall situation in Kosovo during the last 24 hours remained relatively stable, with a few sporadic security incidents, although we regret to have to announce the death of one of our fellow KFOR soldier.
In Multinational Brigade (South) yesterday evening, one Russian soldier died at the Russian Headquarters in Banja following the discharge of his weapon. The tragic incident is currently under investigation and we offer our condolences to his family and friends.
In Prizren yesterday evening (20:20 hrs.), a man was shot and suffered serious head injuries. KFOR troops launched a search operation and later stopped a suspect who was drunk and in possession of a pistol. The man has been taken to the Prizren police station for questioning.
Yesterday a KFOR patrol discovered that the ruined church in Smac, 5 km Northeast Landovica, had been prepared for demolition by unknown criminals. An Explosive Ordnance Team was tasked to diffuse the charges and the monument is now safe. This is another example of results coming from vigilance and continuous presence on the field.
In Multinational Brigade (Centre), first an update on the explosions reported yesterday. On August 25th at 23:10 hrs, explosions were heard Northwest of Pristina. A search operation determined that the explosion actually occurred at the Kosovo Polje Monument. Fortunately, no casualties were reported and the monument was not damaged. Only the spiral staircase providing access to the monument was damage. This incident is currently under investigation.
At 18:35 last evening, KFOR British troops reported the firing of three to four mortar rounds in Gracanica, which did not cause casualties or significant damage. Immediately after the firing a patrol cordoned off the area with checkpoints and conducted house searches. In the framework of security operations, they will continue to search regularly the area in order to protect the population
Thanks to the good co-operation between UNMIK Police and KFOR, 14 arrests have been made in Pristina for looting and intimidation over the last 12 hours. UNMIK police have taken the lead for these cases. KFOR and UNMIK wish to reiterate that nobody is above the law and that intimidation is a crime even if no physical harm is done.
Tomorrow the Finnish contingent will take over its area or responsibility within Multinational Brigade (Centre). A total of 186 Finnish soldiers are now in Kosovo. Within a few weeks, they will provide a full battalion-size contingent of approximately 600 troops. Media interested to cover this event should contact the Brigade Press Information Centre.
Another good news: British engineers completed the renovation of the Lipjan Detention Centre. The refurbished centre is already accommodating 82 inmates. From now on, this centre will fall under the responsibility of the UNMIK Police.
In Multinational Brigade (East), one week has passed without incidents involving violent death.
On August 29th Serbs from the town of Mogila are going to the Albanian town Pozaranje to have their grain milled by Albanians. There will be approximately 20 to 30 tractors with their load of grains. Task Force 1-77 will be providing security and interested parties should be at Camp Bondsteel "PAO" tent no later than 07:00 hrs.
On August 30th, Operation "Tiger-Rosa" will take place in Gnjilane. The director of the local bus company and his bus drivers have now agreed to sign a pledge to provide equal treatment to all people in the area regardless of their ethnicity. Interested parties should be at Task Force 1-77th's headquarters on Camp Bondsteel no later than 07:15 hrs.
In Multinational Brigade (West), yesterday 119 Serbs returned their homes in Gorazdevac from Montenegro. The movement is co-ordinated by UNHCR and KFOR, which provided an escort through the Italian 11th Artillery Regiment. The total amount of people who returned to the village since the arrival of KFOR is now about 700 people.
This morning, the Italian 10th Engineer Regiment is handing over to the local authorities the school of Vitomirica - a village 5 km north of Pec. After having used the school for about two months KFOR wanted to leave it in a better condition as a sign of good relations. The school is now ready to be used by students.
Finally, in Multinational Brigade (North), the situation continues to be stable and KFOR troops remain active in various community projects. For example, the French Motorised Infantry Battalion (MIB) is supporting Serb farmers who did not have access to a harvester in the area of Vucitrn. They provided an escort to transfer a harvester from Zvecan (north of Mitrovica) in order to unable the farmers to harvest their fields. This is another example of the "proximity work" of French KFOR troops in the area.
Question from LA Times:
For KFOR Spokesman: In one of this morning's Albanian language newspapers, there is a brief reference from Mr Thaci stating that paramilitaries are active in the northern part of Mitrovica and this is not at all the first time that comments like that have been made, and even in this room recently there was a reference in terms of the Orahovac situation that UNHCR is not sure exactly what all the Serbs in that area may have done, or something like that, as I remember.
On this question of paramilitaries remaining in Kosovo --especially in the Mitrovica area but also throughout the whole province -- how seriously does KFOR take this problem and are any measures planned or under consideration to deal with this? And are there differences between the French and other countries in KFOR over how to deal with the situation in the northern part of Motrovica?
Answer from Maj Lavoie - KFOR Spokesman:
We have no firm evidence of paramilitary activity here but there is a couple of nuances that I would like to bring. First for some of the crimes that are committed or some of the clothing that we find in some searches, the presence of uniforms -- UCK or former VJ uniforms -- happens once in a while. However, we had a very visible presence in the past, before the arrival of KFOR, of VJ Troops here and it is quite understandable why uniforms could be found. But in terms of presence on the field of organised paramilitary activity, the answer is no.
One thing, also, that you might wish to keep in mind is that there are different types of crimes being committed here in Kosovo and some of these crimes appear to have been committed by organised groups. Organised groups, for which some individuals might be claiming to belong to, the UCK or other organisations. Although we see them as criminals because the nature of their activities is not military per say, but mainly to gain some influence and to make some profit from their activities.
Question from Kosovapress:
On this last answer to this question, first, I think it flies right in the face of what even French soldiers, even off the record will respond when questions are raised about the presence of paramilitaries in Northern Mitrovica. Their answer basically is, well what do you expect us to do? Raid their houses and fight it out in the streets, that is their approach. If you stick to that statement that you have no evidence of a presence of paramilitaries or former paramilitaries in Northern Mitrovica.
A question for UNMIK. There was a list of the first 200 recruits to the Police Academy. From that list 12 Albanians and 3 Serbs who were working with the Former Yugoslavia Secret Service has been selected on this list. Now judging from that selection process which 15 former members of the Secret Police are selected and no members of the KLA are selected. A question arises, who selected those who are in the process of selecting these people and is there more politics involved and less of a criteria or whether or not they are qualified to handle this post war situation?
Answer from Nadia Younes - UNMIK Spokesperson:
I gather your first one was not a question, just a comment, which KFOR has already answered. On the second question you are making allegations which I am not sure I know how you can substantiate them. We have said from the very beginning that the vetting process which was undertaken by the Police Commissioner, was exceedingly rigorous, on very strict criteria and that is what we have done for the selection of first 200. As for the question of no KLA in the 200 selected I am not sure that is an accurate statement, I know that question is taken up by the Police Commissioner and the KLA representatives. Thank you.
Question from The Guardian:
A question for the Provost Marshal. The KLA, according to The Agreement, are supposed to be fully demilitarised by September 19, do you expect the KLA to be fully demilitarised by that date and what kind of contingency plans do you have to make sure that KLA Guerrillas abide by The Agreement?
Answer from Col Waters - Provost Marshall:
The demilitarisation programme and the transformation of the UCK is ongoing and remains on target. I do not think that I have anything further to add to that situation.
Answer from Maj Lavoie - KFOR Spokesman:
If I may say a word also, up to now the KLA met all the overall requirements for demilitarisation, so we have no reason to believe that they will not continue to comply. As far as contingency planning, if I may just remind that the wish of the KLA was expressed through an Undertaking. That means it was their wish to demilitarise and transform so we are not at all in conflictual situation with them over demilitarisation. On the contrary, we observe that they are progressing and they are keeping their word.
Question from Reuters:
A question for UNMIK first of all, I wonder if you could explain the difference between temporary cantinisation to protect Serbs still in Kosovo, which ahs been ruled out by Dr Kuchner and temporary re-groupment of Serbs to protect Serbs in Kosovo, which has not been ruled out by him? A question for KFOR, there was a report yesterday that the size of your force is to be increased. I wonder if you could confirm or deny that and also I would like to know the current figures for how many soldiers you have in theatre, both in Kosovo and in the support Operation in Macedonia all the way down Greece?
Answer from Nadia Younes - UNMIK Spokesperson:
On the first question, I think it was quite publicly stated by Mr Kouchner that he is against the cantinisation plan, I do not think that he could have made it more clear. He rejects it, he doesn't think it is a good idea, I think that he also made quite clear that the question of the security of the Serbs and the other minorities is primordial and is something that we will not let our guard down, that we will continue to try and afford and protect and give the best kind of security to the remaining Serbs, where they are.
In any peacekeeping operation, or in any operation of the United Nations, there are always contingency plans. I think that, what you may be referring to, what certain contingency plans, that are down the line, being discussed aswell with KFOR, but at this point I think the position is that he does reject the cantonisation proposal, but that he is very adamant that he will step up the security and protection of the minorities where they are.
Answer from Maj Lavoie - KFOR Spokesman:
Concerning the number of KFOR people here in Kosovo, in the province, there's just over 40,000 KFOR troops now. If we add to them those who are in the National Support Elements, most of them being in Macedonia, but also a few in Greece, the total will come to over 47,000 people more or less. The full contingent, the full strength of KFOR, is planned to be around 50,000 people. So yes, there will be some more people coming in, more or less 3,000 people before full deployment. However, a little word of caution. This rumour that you heard about, basically I was led to believe that it originated in Belgrade where it was argued that maybe we should have more people to protect Serb minorities.
So basically although there's a few thousand more people that will come and join KFOR, there's no plan to go in a significant manner over the level of 50,000 people. We are quite satisfied with the strength that we have and one has to realise that we have achieved a lot in the last weeks with the strength that we have. What we were not satisfied with, when we arrived, with smaller numbers, we had to face a huge task with limited assets. This is not the case anymore.
Question from Radio Free Europe:
I wanted to get back to the Uglijare case. Some media said today, who were quoting Mr Lavoie saying that they were identified (the bodies) as four Serbs. On the other hand, Serb high officials accused the United States of America of creating a mechanism of death against Serbs and for creating the KLA a long time ago. What's your comment on that and for UNMIK: A person endited for war crimes, Slobodan Milosovic, asked for UNMIK to be under the control of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. What's your comment on that?
Remainder inaudible due to technical problems