ISSN 2330-717X

Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia Deny Sending ‘Mercenaries’ To Ukraine

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By Perparim Isufi and Fjori Sinoruka

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Officials of Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have rejected claims made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that these countries are sending “mercenaries” to fight in Ukraine, where there are fears of a Russian invasion.

Moscow-based news agency Russia Today quoted Lavrov on Friday as saying that they are working to verify information about “mercenaries” from Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia going to Ukraine.

“Kosovo and some other parts of the Western Balkans are becoming a hotbed of crime. There are terrorists, drug dealers. Mercenaries are recruited there for military conflicts ignited by the US, among others,” Lavrov said.

“There is information that militants from Kosovo, Albania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are being recruited to knock Russia off balance, which includes sending them to Donbass [in eastern Ukraine],” he added.

In all three Balkan countries, Lavrov’s comments baffled and outraged officials.

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Blerim Vela, chief of staff to the President of Kosovo, on Twitter dismissed the comments as a “fake news alert”.

“Russian FM Lavrov’s false accusation that Kosovo is providing mercenaries to Donbass is part and parcel of a disinformation campaign that seeks to justify military aggression against Ukraine. Kosovo stands with its allies and Ukraine in defending freedom and democracy,” Vela wrote.

In Albania, ruling Socialist MP Pandeli Majko, a former Prime Minister, said the comments were “unprecedented”. He also noted: “Indian TV Channel WION has done a chronicle about the map of the ethnic background of volunteers who have gone to help Ukraine.”

BIRN asked the Kosovo and Albania governments to comment on Lavrov’s allegations but neither replied by time of publication.

Bosnia’s Security Ministry said that, according to available data, no citizen of Bosnia had gone to fight alongside Ukrainian forces.

“We will send an official inquiry to Russia’s embassy in Sarajevo about this statement. If Lavrov has some information on such activities in Bosnia, I hope that, before revealing it, he shares them with our security services,” Bisera Turkovic, Bosnian Foreign Minister, said ironically on Friday.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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