Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 161

Negotiators in Kosovo have made no progress over the past several days in resolving a standoff between ethnic Albanian demonstrators and Russian troops outside the city of Orahovac. The demonstrators oppose the replacement of Dutch and German peacekeepers with Russian troops in Orahovac and, since August 23, have blocked roads leading into the city.

An apparent NATO attempt to end the standoff yesterday misfired. A KFOR helicopter flew Hashim Thaqi, leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, to Orahovac for talks with the ethnic Albanian protesters. Rather than urge them to resolve the situation, however, Thaqi embraced their goals. He was quoted as saying that the KLA supports the demonstrators and believes that “their demand for Russian troops not to be present here in Orahovac will be met.” Thaqi did suggest, however, that Russian soldiers might eventually be stationed in the area around Orahovac, though not in the city itself. The KLA leader was scheduled to leave yesterday for a seven-day tour of European capitals where the standoff in Orahovac will be on the agenda. He is also to discuss the demilitarization of the KLA which, by virtue of an agreement with NATO, is to be completed by September 19 (Reuters, AP, September 1). Moscow has repeatedly accused KFOR of failing to move swiftly enough in disarming the guerrilla army.

In a related development, meanwhile, reports out of Moscow yesterday suggested that Russia intends to raise before the UN Security Council an alleged cover-up involving what Moscow says was a massacre of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. The case involves some twenty bodies found last month in the U.S.-controlled sector of the province. The discovery was announced only last week, and NATO officials say that the ethnicity of the victims has yet to be determined. Local Serb families claim that at least some of the victims are Serbs (AP, September 1). The Russian complaint, contained in a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry yesterday, accuses U.S. KFOR troops of having covered up discovery of the bodies. It also intimates that the alleged cover-up is the result of anti-Serb biases among the NATO peacekeepers (Russian agencies, September 1). To date, interactions on the ground in Kosovo between Russian soldiers and their NATO counterparts have gone most smoothly in the U.S.-controlled sector.