Mercenaries from Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia May Be Deploying for War in East Ukraine - Russian FM Claims

A few hours preceding the outbreak of large scale hostilities hostilities in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region on February 18, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov highlighted that there were reports mercenaries from Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia were being deployed to the area. "There’s information that mercenaries are being recruited in Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina to knock Russia out of balance and send them to places including Donbas. We are now double checking that," he stated. This was notably followed by comments regarding the nature of Western military intervention in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, which Bosnia and Kosovo were both formerly parts of, with Lavrov highlighting that the Balkan region remained "far from prosperous" ever since NATO involved itself. 

The Foreign Minister elaborated: "Kosovo and some other parts of the Western Balkans are becoming a breeding ground for crime. There are terrorists and drug dealers there... to say that NATO invaded Yugoslavia with noble goals is incorrect and unethical at the very least." This was in reference to Western backed forces in Kosovo in particular, namely the Kosovo Liberation Army, which Western officials frequently referred to as a terrorist organisation and which had its roots as an organisation and fighting force in drug cartels that had trafficked narcotics from Albania and Turkey through Europe. Lavrov's statement may well have been intended to recall memories of Western war crimes in Yugoslavia to build up opposition to a possible future Western intervention in Ukraine, the government of which remains in NATO's sphere of influence while separatist forces in its Donbas region are supported by Russia.

Donbas separatists notably declared the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic in 2014, drawing close parallels to Kosovo with all three not being recognised by the United Nations and being considered parts of Ukraine and Serbia respectively. Leading NATO member states have notably supported Ukraine's territorial integrity while supporting Kosovo's separation from Serbia, while the Russian parliament has begun to consider supporting a Donbas separation from Ukraine while supporting Serbia's territorial integrity vis-a-vis Kosovo. 

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