Kosovo convoy blocked: Russian diplomats cry foul

A picture taken on December 13, 2011 shows a Romanian officer of the EULEX mission in Kosovo standing guard in front of a truck carring Russian aid at the border crossing of Jarinje between Serbia and northern Kosovo (AFP Photo / Sasa Djordjevic)
Russian diplomats have announced that EU officials continue to block a Russian aid convoy on the Serbia-Kosovo border and insist the issue must be solved at a senior political level.

Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Konuzin said on Wednesday that the Russian 25-truck convoy with aid to Kosovo Serbs was blocked on the border because Russian side refused an escort by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), manned by Kosovo Albanians, as Russia does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state. In addition, Serbian residents of northern Kosovo said they would not allow the escort to pass as they do not recognize Albanians’ rule in their territory.

“There have been no changes regarding the convoy’s further movement. And, in fact, there have been no additional contacts with representatives of the mission since yesterday,” the Russian ambassador said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also issued an official comment on Wednesday in which it accused EULEX of exceeding the powers granted by its mandate, as well as resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council, which secures the unobstructed delivery of humanitarian cargo in Kosovo.

Radenko Nedeljkovic, the political leader of Kosovo Serbs, said he was grateful to the Russian people for their support and promised to keep pressing for the unobstructed transportation of aid to Northern Kosovo populated by Serbs. Nedeljkovic said that EULEX’s position that the escort is needed for convoy’s security is weak, as there are other official bodies, recognized by the Serbs, that can take care of this problem, first of all KFOR and the regional police force.

Russian Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Wednesday that Russia was acting within the framework of the UN resolution and ready for any customs checks, but the cargo must be delivered to a particular address – to Serbian enclaves in Kosovo-Mitrovica. “They want to direct us through Pristina government, but we cannot allow this as we are carrying the aid to a particular address and to particular people,” Shoigu said.

Russia’s envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin called the actions by EU representatives a “humanitarian crime” and arbitrariness. Speaking to Russian news channel Vesti-24, Rogozin said that by such actions the Western countries condemn the Serbian minority in Kosovo to extinction. At the same time, the envoy stressed that the conflict is fuelled by EULEX, while NATO is not interfering and is following its agreements with the Russian side.