Kosovo rings in the new year:

K. Serb returnee seriously injured (FoNet, Jan. 24)

OSOJANE — A Serb returnee to the Kosovo village of Opraške near Osojane was attacked and seriously injured in his home, FoNet reports.

[Branko] Milovanović was attacked by unknown persons, and is currently in an intensive care unit in a hospital in northern Kosovska Mitrovica.

According to this report, Milovanović was attacked by “three unidentified young men in front of his house”.

He was hospitalized with head injuries, concussion, broken ribs and heavy bruises.

This is the fourth incident in Opraške, where nine returnee families live. A week ago, the house of Serb returnee Mile Vuletić, empty at the time, was set on fire and burned to the ground.

During last week, two Serb houses were broken into and robbed.

The Serb families, driven out of their homes by ethnic Albanians, returned to the village in 2006.

Update, from Serbianna.com (temporarily off-line): “Battered Kosovo Serb recovering” (Jan. 25)

Kosovo Serb Branislav Milovanovic who was attacked and brutally beaten by a mob of Muslim Albanians is out of danger, says the hospital.

Milovanovic was attacked by a mob of Albanian men as he was trying to return back to his home from which he was ethnically cleansed by Albanians…in the Village Opraske located near Osojane, Metohia.

“As soon as I was on the street, they cut me off and whacked me,” said Milovanovic.

With a cracked skull and broken ribs, Milovanovic was still able to walk 2 kilometers to a nearby village of Kos where the villagers took him to the hospital in Kosovska Mitrovica. Milovanovic said that they were beating him “to kill.”

Returnee coordinator Vesna Milikovic says that the attack on Milovanovic has made the other nine returnees in fear for their life. Milikovic says that returnees in nearby villages are also in fear of the organized Albanian mob.

“Since the New Year day, attacks on Serbs are more frequent and attacks on their property and just in Opraske, in which 9 returnee families live, this is a fourth incident…

Since 1999 when the Albania separatists violently took power in Kosovo, Serbs have been routinely attacked and killed and conviction of attackers is very seldom.

The Minister [Serbian minister for Kosovo-Metohia, Goran Bogdanovic] pointed out that the conspicuous silence of the Kosovo police is an incentive to Albanian extremists, as well as proof that Kosovo institutions are trying to prevent the return of banished Serbs to the province. […]

Ah, it’s good to see the efforts of our troops implementing “official Serb-return policy” paying off. And according to some, the efforts and good intentions of our troops are what count. Here’s just a fun flashback to a conversation that took place on this site and elsewhere in July and August of 2007. I’m sure my two interlocutors on that subject — two National Guard ‘information officers’ just passing through Kosovo on their one-year rotations at the time — are very glad to be done with that conversation. Unlike those cheap patriots, however, my American conscience doesn’t afford me the same luxury. The first quote comes from an Orthodox military chaplain in Kosovo, who entered the fray, named 1st Lt. Michael Wikstrom:

Living in the past will not solve the issues folks. Only going forward from here. Yes there are problems, yes there have been mistakes, yes there is hatred and mistrust, but I do not see ANY of the things that Ms. Gorin has stated and I travel Kosovo extensively…[T]he rhetoric needs to be replaced by actions. Serbs need to return to Kosovo. Scaring them off by publishing reports, false reports that those left here face wholesale slaughter on a daily basis is not helping or encouraging them to return. [Ahem, ahem, ahem.] If the idea is to get as many Serbs to return to Kosovo-Metohija then telling them they have a high probability of being murdered and that they will be forced to live in “concentration camps” is not going to do it. Am I wrong?

A note on the ubiquitous admonition by dismissive internationals such as Lt. Wikstrom to stop “living in the past” and “go forward”: Aside from the fact that skewed policy is still being built on that “past,” Mary Ellen Synon of the UK Daily Mail blog responded to this intellectually impotent dismissiveness last month in a post titled “Organ trafficking, eugenics and corruption: meet our new EU ‘partners’“:

So you would think that the European Commission might have a more muscular reply to Senator Marty’s report than what was offered just before Christmas by Cecilia Malmstrom, the Swede who is Home Affairs Commissioner. When confronted by a journalist about the report, she stuck to: ‘We do not deny there are problems in Kosovo and in other countries. This report you refer to, I have read about it in the media, I cannot comment what is true and what is not true.’

Not that she much wants to know what is true and what is not true in Kosovo: the EU wants Kosovo ’stable,’ even if that means the butchers stay in power. Or as Senator Marty noted in his report, ‘even certain representatives of international institutions did not conceal their reluctance to grapple with these facts. “The past is the past,” we are told, “we must now look to the future.”‘ (I’d say that is a line you won’t hear much at, for example, the Simon Weisenthal Centre in Vienna.)

My response to Lt. Wikstrom at the time:

You’re not wrong, Lt. and indeed, as Ms. Fellenzer reported, “we have aided 74 Serbian Kosovars in their return into Srpski Babus, helping to provide infrastructure, food and CIMIC support.” But the question is, why am I a liar for reporting Serb Returnee Killed in Central Kosovo (June 2006):

A Serb returnee was found shot dead inside his house in a central Kosovo town Tuesday, police and Serb officials said. The 68 year-old Serb, identified as Dragan Popovic, was discovered by police after the officers received a report of a body found in a house in the town of Klina, 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, Kosovo’s police said in a statement…He was last seen late Monday returning to his home from a shop. Nothing was touched in the house, the Serb officials said…Police have no suspects and have not yet established a motive for the apparent killing. Several Serbs have returned to Klina recently, after fleeing the aftermath of the province’s 1998-1999…Separately, vandals damaged sixteen graveside monuments in the Serb village of Staro Gracko, 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the province’s capital, Pristina, police said.

And here’s me “living in the past” — this past September [2006], to be exact:

An explosion in western Kosovo injured four Serbs late Tuesday, the fourth bombing in the last five days, police said. The blast occurred outside a home in the small town of Kline [Klina], about 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of the capital…Three other bombings in the province since Friday only damaged cars, with no reports of injuries…Today, only about 100,000 [Serbs] remain [in Kosovo], most living in small, isolated enclaves scattered around the province.

From Reuters:

Police said the victims were former refugees who had returned to Klina a year ago having fled Kosovo after the 1998-99 war…At least half the Serb population fled a wave of revenge attacks after the war, and those who stayed live mainly in isolated enclaves. U.N. officials say the rate of attacks against Serbs has fallen, but they fear fresh violence as a decision nears on Kosovo’s “final status.”

And here’s another Serb refugee return story that I’m a liar for telling readers about, because it’s “exceptional”:

After fleeing almost seven years ago, [Zoran] Stanisic, along with his mother, moved back to Pristina five months ago…“I’ve found both my business and living places broken in to…Since I am one of the few Serbs living in Pristina, it’s funny that this is the second time this month that someone has probably tried to send us a message.” …Stanisic said that he trusted the promises of the international community, the Kosovo Government and the Return Ministry, that the minimum conditions of normal living would be given to him, which encouraged him to return to Pristina.

“When winter came, we had nothing, so we were forced to temporarily get out of the way, and wait to see whether their promises would be fulfilled or not. It looks as if there is nothing for Serbs in this city, and Serbs are ordained to live in enclaves, concentration camps, and behind barbed wire.” …Until 1999, about 40,000 Serbs lived in Pristina. There are currently 150 living there now. Zoran Stanisic is now living in Gracanica, because, as he stated, he cannot live in his Pristina apartment.

So that was a conversation from July and August of 2007, and the above Serb-return stories don’t even include these more recent ones.

The National Guard’s amateur PR duo had also tried to assure readers that Serbs and other non-Albanians have freedom of movement in Kosovo:

“[I]n most of the province, Kosovo Serbians are free to leave their enclaves, drive to their destinations, take vacations and walks,” wrote Fellenzer, who cited an Orthodox military chaplain [probably Wikstrom] as “concurring” that in her area of operations, there are “no concentration camp-like conditions.”

That was 2007, and supposedly my information was from 2005 — ancient and obsolete. Yet out of the countless articles to have come out since 2005 making these same observations first hand — by European news reporters, human rights groups and various organizations’ rapporteurs — here’s a random one from just this year:

South of Mitrovica, the occupied province is dominated not just by Albanians, but by the KLA. [The “disbanded” KLA, according to our PR duo.] The few non-Albanians that survive there live in ghettos, where the only thing between them and brutal death are barbed-wire enclosures and NATO “peacekeepers” — the very troops [who were employed in creating] their predicament.

Some closing quotes on this issue follow below.

“Over 230,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians have been expelled from Kosovo since 1999. Less than five percent have returned so far.”

“I remember one day meeting the UN regional administrator for Mitrovica [David Mitchels] outside the UNMIK offices in Pristina and he told me that Kosovo would be better off if all the Serbs were gone.” — Iseult Henry, author of Hiding Genocide in Kosovo

“In the mid to long term there will be some kind of biological end to the problem here because, you know, one of the population(s) will simply disappear.” — KFOR commander Lt. Gen. Xavier de Marnhac in 2007, on the fact that the average age of a Kosovo Albanian was 28 and that of a Kosovo Serb was 54