Media in Kyiv reported that President Volodymyr Zelensky has recalled the 40 Ukrainian troops serving as peacekeepers in Kosovo, but NATO pledged that a robust mission will continue.
US-NATO soldiers of the 2nd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment (2-38th) prepare to conduct parachute training exercises at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, April 2014. Photo: EPA/VALDRIN XHEMAJ
NATO said on Tuesday that it will maintain a robust military presence in Kosovo after Ukraine pulls out its 40-strong contingent from the KFOR peacekeeping mission.
Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform reported on Tuesday that President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered Ukrainian troops serving in peacekeeping missions worldwide to return to the country to defend it against the Russian invasion.
Andriy Sybiha, the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, confirmed the decision.
“President of Ukraine V. Zelensky made the decision to recall Ukrainian peacekeepers – high-professional military – from all missions in the world. Along with the equipment. To strengthen our army now in the retreat of Russian aggression,” Sybiha wrote on Facebook.
A NATO official told BIRN on Tuesday that it cannot comment on Zelensky’s decision but said that the Western alliance will maintain KFOR’s presence in Kosovo.
“NATO’s policy with respect to Kosovo and the Western Balkans has been consistent throughout. And that remains the case today,” the NATO official said in a written reply.
The official said that the Alliance’s position remains as stipulated at a NATO summit held last summer when member states said that they “remain committed to NATO’s continued engagement in Kosovo, including through the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) which contributes to a safe and secure environment and to wider stability in the Western Balkans”.
NATO’s peacekeeping force in Kosovo, KFOR, began its mission in June 1999 after 78 days of airstrikes forced Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw Serbian police and military from Kosovo.
NATO’s peacekeeping operation has, however, been reduced in size, from 50,000 troops on the ground in 1999 to around 3,800 peacekeepers today.
On Monday, after a protest in Pristina against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, German ambassador Jorn Rohde said that NATO will continue to maintain its security presence in Kosovo.
“I am concerned, of course, I am concerned. When someone starts a war without any reason, it normally concerns you. But the region, especially Kosovo, has KFOR here, so I do not see any reason for concern [for Kosovo],” Rohde told Tirana-based Euronews Albania.
Source link: balkaninsight.com