BBC - Sunday, November 7, 1999

World: Europe

Kosovo visit sparks alert
Few details of Sergei Lavrov's Kosovo visit have been released

The UN's Slav staff in Kosovo have been warned about possible attack during a two-day visit by Russia's ambassador to the United Nations.

They have been advised to avoid public places over the next few days.

The alert follows the killing of a Bulgarian UN employee last month.

Hostility to many Slavs, and to Russians in particular, is high among Kosovo's Albanian majority because of their traditionally close links to the Serbs.

Moscow was also an outspoken opponent of Nato's bombing of Yugoslavia earlier this year, which had the declared aim of ending Serb repression of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Details of Mr Lavrov's two-day trip have been kept to a minimum because of the alert.

He was welcomed at Pristina Pristina airport by Jock Covey, the deputy head of the United Nations administration, then left for the town of Gracanica, where a Serb Orthodox monastery is under guard of Nato-led peacekeepers.

Mr Lavrov plans to meet the leaders of the UN civilian mission, representatives of the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities in Pristina, and the leaders of the Serb community.

He will then leave for a two-day trip to Belgrade.

'Very uneasy'

The BBC's correspondent in Pristina, Paul Wood, says UN staff of Slavic origin have been uneasy since the murder of their colleague.

"A Bulgarian member of staff was shot and killed on the street for speaking what people thought was Serbian, but I think was probably Bulgarian, which is quite similar to Serbian.

"A lot of people with Slavic names, Russians, Czechs and Slovaks, people like that have told me they feel very uneasy.

Stay indoors

The alert said: "Credible evidence of an increased threat against UN international personnel of Slavic nationality over the next several days has been received".

Distributed to UN personnel on Thursday, the one-page document advised Slavic nationals to limit travel to essential journeys, vary daily routines, avoid going outdoors and stay away from public venues.

Initially hailed as liberators by Albanians after Serb forces withdrew in June, international officials and troops have been targeted for trying to stop revenge attacks on Serbs, for attempting to fight crime or even just for speaking Serbian.

Several Russian UN staff have received threats or been the targets of harassment, UN officials said.

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