Kosovo prosecutor asks to lift Russian UN staff's immunity

Mitrovica (Kosovo) (AFP) –


A Kosovo prosecutor on Wednesday asked to revoke the diplomatic immunity of a Russian UN staff member suspected of obstructing a police crackdown on organised crime, despite Moscow blasting his detention as "outrageous".

The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) said the Russian was injured and briefly detained during a raid in northern Kosovo on Tuesday that led to the arrest of dozens of police officers and civilians accused of smuggling and other crimes.

Kosovo special police said they met "armed resistance" in some areas of the mainly Serb north, as well as blockades from citizens who tried to prevent the operation.

According to Kosovo's police chief, the Russian and another local UN staff member were detained after they were found in a vehicle with UNMIK plates that was used as part of a "barricade" to block police from entering the town of Zubin Potok.

The district prosecutor in the main city in Kosovo's north, Mitrovica, said he had requested the withdrawal of the Russian's diplomatic immunity for "obstructing an official in the execution of duty".

"According to the evidence we have, he is suspected of taking part in it (resisting police)," prosecutor Shyqri Syla told AFP.

The move comes despite anger from Moscow, which slammed the Russian's detention on Tuesday as an "outrageous act" and a violation of his diplomatic immunity.

UNMIK had also called for both of its staff's immediate release, but did not respond to requests for comment.

A hospital director in Mitrovica said the Russian man suffered "severe head injuries" and would be transferred to Belgrade.

The raids were a rare intervention by Kosovo police in the north, where many remain loyal to Belgrade a decade after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.

On Wednesday several thousand ethnic Serbs protested in Mitrovica against the operation.

At the protest Serb political leader Goran Rakic condemned the arrests saying "Serbs will not leave despite the brutality".

Russia is a key ally of Serbia and supports its refusal to recognise Kosovo's independence.