Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 175

Moscow objected formally yesterday to an agreement finalized on Monday (September 20) between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and KFOR and UN officials. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement described the agreement–which mandates the transformation of the KLA into a civilian emergency and rescue force (see the Monitor, September 22)–as a “thoughtless political act [which] goes against the letter and spirit” of a UN Security Council resolution calling for the KLA’s demilitarization. The statement also charged that the new force would be dominated completely by the KLA and suggested that its creation would contribute neither to an easing of tensions in Kosovo nor to the return and safety of Kosovo’s non-ethnic Albanian population. The statement also warned that Moscow is “concerned” by “attempts to legalize some military units in Kosovo” and warned that Russia would be “unable to take responsibility for possible negative consequences” related to the operation of the new Kosovo Protection Force (UPI, AP, Russian agencies, September 22).

The statement apparently did not spell out what actions Moscow might take in response to creation of the Kosovo Protection Force. But Russian officials have indicated that they would oppose creation of the force if it came up for consideration by the UN Security Council. There have also been intimations–albeit mostly from Russian Defense Ministry hardliners–that Moscow might withdraw its troops from Kosovo if it is was dissatisfied with NATO’s conduct of the peacekeeping mission there.

The Russian government’s objections to the new Kosovo force, meanwhile, appear not to have been communicated to the Russian troops deployed in Kosovo. On September 21 the Russian commander in Kosovo, Major General Valery Yevtukhovich, issued a statement of his own warmly welcoming the agreement between the KLA and KFOR and the UN. Yevtukhovich’s statement says that the Russian command in Kosovo “welcomes the agreements and approves the results of demilitarizing the Kosovo Liberation Army.” It added that the new agreement will “lead to the easing of tensions, stabilization in society and consolidation of civil institutions in the autonomous area of Kosovo” (Russian agencies, September 21-22).

Although Yevtukhovich also underscored the importance of ensuring that the new Kosovo Protection Force does not serve to replicate the KLA’s military functions, his statement suggests some dissonance and a serious lack of communication between Moscow and its soldiers in the field. It may also suggest that, on the issue of the Kosovo force at least, the Russian government is more interested in trying to score political points in Kosovo than it is in supporting policies which could improve the situation on the ground there.