NATO Reports Flare-Up of Violence
KOSOVSKA KAMENICA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Russian peacekeepers in Kosovo came under attack three times late Thursday and Friday, revealing widespread animosity in the ethnic Albanian-dominated province toward Moscow’s growing presence there.
The Russians were targeted at checkpoints in eastern Kosovo by unidentified assailants in three separate incidents, including a sniper attack at their main base in Kosovska Kamenica, a Russian officer confirmed Friday.
Maj. Jenya Zokolov, based in Kosovoska Kamenica, confirmed that one of his soldiers was shot while on patrol in the American sector in eastern Kosovo, where they are stationed. He said a U.S. helicopter evacuated the soldier.
The attacks came just one night after about 1,000 ethnic Albanians marched in protest to the Russian base in Kosovska Kamenica. Kosovo Albanians view the 3,600 Russians as pro-Serb, and Russian mercenaries are rumored to have fought alongside Serb forces in their campaign of massacres and expulsions against ethnic Albanians.
Zokolov said representatives of the Russian contingent met Friday with local leaders of the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army. ``They said they don’t know anything about who’s shooting,″ Zokolov said.
Serbs, meanwhile, said NATO forces have failed to provide them with adequate protection in light of a series of attacks that have driven more than 160,000 Serbs out of the province and raised questions about the effectiveness of the peacekeeping mission.
A spokesman for the NATO-led peacekeeping force, KFOR, warned that the troops will respond harshly to any attack.
``KFOR is very concerned about the current attacks against its soldiers,″ Maj. Jan Joosten said.
Joosten said the security situation in Kosovo was generally better, but acknowledged that having seven attacks involving peacekeepers late Thursday and early Friday was unusual. Fifteen suspects were detained in connection with the incidents.
In the other incidents reported:
_ Troops protecting a Serb house in Urosevac exchanged fire with attackers in a station wagon, and a U.S. Apache helicopter followed the vehicle. One wounded man was arrested at Pristina hospital, where the car was found.
_ Shots were fired above a checkpoint in southern Kosovo near Prizren, and an ethnic Albanian was arrested after weapons were found in his car.
_ A patrol in Pec, in western Kosovo, came under fire and one suspect was arrested.
_ Shots were fired near a checkpoint in the Djakovica area, and the search of a nearby house turned up an assault rifle and a grenade. The occupant was arrested.
The violence threatens the ability of NATO and the United Nations to set up a civil administration in Kosovo until elections can be held. Nadia Younes, a U.N. spokeswoman in Pristina, said Friday that a council of ethnic Albanians and Serbs probably would hold its second meeting within two weeks.
She said ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova and Hashim Thaci, the former guerrilla leader who now heads an interim administration in Kosovo, met for 3 1/2 hours this week with U.N. mission chief Bernard Kouchner.
Both Rugova and Thaci indicated that they would participate in the next transitional council meeting, Younes said. Rugova’s party boycotted the first meeting last month, complaining it lacked proper representation.
Meanwhile, efforts continued to establish a strong international police force in Kosovo.
Sven Frederickson, the Danish police commissioner heading the force, said there are now 270 foreign police officers working in the province and 200 more are going through a five-day induction program. He said he expects 200 additional policemen to arrive every week until the force reaches its target of 3,100.