At today’s UNSC session on Kosova – Excerpts from the speech of Vlora Çitaku, Kosova’s Ambassador to the United States
On May 28th, 2019 Kosova Police successfully conducted a large-scale operation aimed at tackling organized crime across several municipalities in the Republic of Kosova. This operation followed a months-long investigation which began in April 2018 and examined several criminal groups involved in the misuse of official position, smuggling, bribery, and illegal trade.
Based on the evidence collected by the Office of the Special Prosecutor of the Republic of Kosova as part of this investigation, the Basic Court of Prishtina authorized a request to raid a set of premises utilized by the suspected individuals. The targets were located in Zubin Potok, Leposavic, Vushtrri, the city of Mitrovica, Skenderaj, and Drenas.
In accordance with the court’s request and under the direction of the office of the Special Prosecutor, Kosova Police raided twelve premises, arrested nineteen Kosova Police employees and nine civilians with outstanding arrest warrants.
The arrested suspects are all Kosova citizens and include eleven Kosova-Serbs, four Kosova- Albanians, and four Kosova-Bosnians. This group consists of one commander of a police station, three sergeants, and seven police officers. All of them have since been suspended from duty.
Kosova Police did not encounter any resistance during the implementation of their action plan across the different municipalities, with one major exception. In Zubin Potok, police officers were met with armed resistance, gunfire, and blocked by large barricades set up by violent gangs.
During this segment of the action, Kosova Police officers apprehended seven civilians who were actively engaged in creating barricades and obstructing the operation. Amongst them was a United Nations diplomat of Russian nationality named Mikhail Krasnoshchenkov.
Mr. Krasnoshchenkov used an official United Nations vehicle with UNMIK license plates to erect a barricade with the sole purpose of preventing Kosova Police from carrying out their mission.
Kosova Police found evidence that Mr. Krasnoshchenkov used the UN vehicle to transport a chainsaw to the location where these events took place. This chainsaw was used to cut down trees which were thrown onto the highway to prevent the passage of Kosova Police to Zubin Potok. Mr. Krasnoshchenkov placed the UN vehicle in front of these trees to bolster the barricades.
Mr. Krasnoshchenkov indicated that he could comprehend these requests. However, he refused to cooperate with the police and even denied to provide identification. After repeated refusals from Mr. Krasnoshchenkov to comply with the demands of the police and continued attempts by him to impede their movement, Kosova Police proceeded to detain this individual.
Mr. Krasnoshchenkov was subsequently escorted to the police station where he was held under custody and offered medical treatment before being transported to medical facilities. Upon his request and assertion of diplomatic immunity, Mr. Krasnoshchenkov was then released and transferred to Belgrade. In the following days, Kosova authorities decided to deny Mr. Krasnoshchenkov future entry into the country.
The NATO military presence in Kosova – KFOR confirmed that these raids were part of an op-eration executed exclusively by the Kosova Police and that all relevant authorities were in- formed. Moreover, UNMIK personnel operating in the north of Kosova were instructed not to be out on the ground. Three Kosova Police officials were injured during the efforts to remove the barricades that obstructed this operation. Despite the obstacles, our officers were able to complete their mission.
In light of these events, I must admit, those of us in Kosova were appalled by the consequent statements that were made in Belgrade and certain capitals around the world regarding this very successful operation.
An operation the sole purpose of which was to combat crime, crime committed with remarkable coordination across ethnicities, was attempted to be portrayed as an operation with underlying ethnic motivations. The only intention of the Kosova Police was to ensure the safety and security of the people of Kosova. To protect them from the gangs and criminal groups who make the development of normal life very difficult.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kosova has been the host of countless UN diplomats during the past two decades. They are our friends, our mentors, our family. No UNMIK employee has ever come in harm’s way in Kosova. They have never been targets of threats, violence, or attacks of any kind. To hear claims that the Kosova Police deliberately targeted UN employees in Kosova is beyond any comprehension to those of us who live in Kosova.
Mr. Krasnoshchenkov became an obstacle to law enforcement in Kosova of his own volition, or to put it frankly, Mr. Krasnoshchenkov willingly became a shield to criminal gangs attempting to inhibit an ongoing police operation.
Honorable members of the Security Council,
That is unheard of. It has nothing to do with the mandate of Mr. Krasnoshchenkov or the man- date of the UN mission in Kosova.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Please tell me what would happen if any of us, accredited ambassadors or UN diplomatic personnel alike, with full diplomatic immunity, attempted to prevent an ongoing police operation here in New York? Or in Moscow, or Berlin? Or anywhere else for that matter? The Government of Kosova and its agencies comply fully with all international legislation regulating the status of diplomats stationed in our territory and adhere to all existing standards in respecting the privileges of diplomatic personnel.
However, we do find it surprising that a UN International Civil Servant who has undergone the requisite Advanced training for Security on the Field – a mandatory training that is provided to every deployed UN staff member – suddenly finds himself barricading local roads in Kosova with their official UN issued vehicle.
Are we to understand that the UN mandate in Kosova has been extended to include active engagement in obstructing local law enforcement from performing their constitutionally mandated duties?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A member of the United Nations mission in Kosova placed the lives of our police officers at risk.
Given the distressing nature of this incident, the institutions of the Republic of Kosova demand a UN investigation into this unprecedented and dangerous behavior.
The combination of medieval mindset and modern propaganda adopted by Serbian officials and state apparatus for more than a century, but especially in the last decades, is a menace to peace. I can’t help but acknowledge their ongoing campaign to dehumanize the people of Kosova, to portray us as inherently inferior, less than human, akin to savages. As despicable as this is, it is unfortunately no news to us. This happened especially during ’80 and ’90, the decades before the wars in former Yugoslavia.
Unfortunately, this is a déjà vu to us. Another former Prime Minister of Serbia, in 1913, Vladan Djordjevic, actually characterized Albanians as bloodthirsty animals who are so inconceivably ignorant that we could not tell the difference between sugar and snow. “They are modern Troglodytes” he said “amongst the Albanians, there seem to have been humans with tails as late as the nineteenth century” he declared.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Here we are, over a century later, listening to Serbian official spewing hatred and perpetuating the same baseless, racist claims.
Only a few months ago, right here in this chamber, the President of Serbia had the audacity to make a public plea to the council, “will anyone tame those people”, “tame them” he said, tame them.
Just last month, the Prime Minister of Serbia publicly stated in reference to the people of Kosova that “those people literally just came out of the woods”.
I would love to hear them repeat those unconscionable statements to the women and men of Kosova who make us proud every day with their achievements in arts, sports, and innovation. Let them unleash their vitriol before the families of martyrs who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their loved ones from Serbian aggression. Let them unmask their true motivation. Let them show us their crippling fear of the ammunition of democracy, words, and thoughts. Words that are spoken abroad, and thoughts stirring up at home.
For the people of Kosova will not be tamed. We will not be subjugated. And we will not be ruled by Serbia ever again.
It is our hope that this chamber will not lie abashed and distracted before triumphant assertions of ethnic hatred. The Republic of Kosova will certainly never waver in its quest for peace and justice. And however dim the prospect may seem, we intend to fight. We will fight with the power of our ideas and the courage of our convictions, because surely this goal is sufficiently important to require our unspared devotion.
And one day, the professionalism of our institutions will match the integrity of our media, the success of our artists and athletes, the strength of our women and the resilience of our civil society. On that day we will have built an even better Republic. Independent, sovereign, integrated into the international community and at peace with its neighbors. Including Serbia.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The invitation stands. Come visit Kosova and witness with your own eyes the progress that you have made possible. As an extra treat, you will be able to see the beautiful mountains that we are so proud to come from. Because as the famous expression by Ernest Hemingway goes, mountaineering is the one true sport, everything else is merely a game. Thank you!