Russia's UN ambassador has called the EU's planned mission in Kosovo "illegal" and said the resolution authorizing the UN to administer the Serb province in 1999 remains in force -- and said the UN mission would remain in Kosovo.
EU leaders agreed to send an 1,800-strong police and judiciary mission to Kosovo to replace the UN administrative mission following Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence on Feb. 17, and it is preparing to deploy.
But Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin on Thursday pointed to a statement dated Feb. 17 from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that disputes any EU takeover.
In the statement, Ban said that until there is a new decision by the Security Council, the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) would consider Resolution 1244 adopted in 1999 "as the legal framework for its mandate and will continue to implement its mandate in the light of the evolving circumstances."
Kosovo came under UN and NATO administration after a NATO-led air war halted former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.
International talks lasting 14 months failed to produce an agreement between the Serbs, who offered autonomy, and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership, which demanded independence.
Russia, which has close cultural ties to the Serbs, has strongly criticized the EU mission. Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said there was "bitter irony" because the EU mission is supposed to promote the rule of law, but is violating international law.
Churkin called Ban's statement "very important" and noted that it was not contested by anybody in the Security Council.
He stressed that the EU mission has not been mandated or authorized by the Security Council, and said reports that it is taking over from the UN, and talk of a 120-day transition, are "quite disturbing."
"It is disorienting to the international community and population in Kosovo, because let me repeat, as the secretary-general said, 1244 remains in force and UNMIK stays there, until and unless the Security Council takes a new decision on this matter -- and this is not about to happen," Churkin said.
He told reporters that he raised this issue at a closed council meeting on Thursday, quoting from 1244 and the mandate of the EU mission.
"On the basis of that, I concluded that the deployment of the European Union mission was illegal, and therefore any attempts by that mission to usurp the functions of UNMIK would be contrary to 1244," Churkin said.
"Nobody objected, so again I think that that was an important moment for the Security Council," he said.