Ukraine will begin the withdrawal of its peacekeepers from the NATO-led mission in Kosovothe RBK-Ukraine news portal reported on Wednesday, citing sources from the Ukrainian military command.
Ukraine currently maintains a contingent of 40 blue helmets in Kosovo as part of the 3,800-strong NATO-led KFOR mission, but in March President Volodymyr Zelensky he issued a decree ordering all missions to return home to help in the war with Russia.
“The return of the (Ukrainian) national contingent will mean the temporary termination of their participation in the KFOR mission“, RBK-Ukraine said citing the command of the Ukrainian army.
He also indicated that the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Kosovo was in line with Zelensky’s March 7 decree ordering missions to return home. after the invasion of Russia on February 24.
A NATO official confirmed the reports saying the withdrawal it would not affect its peacekeeping mission.
“Ukraine has been a valuable contributor to our peacekeeping mission. … We welcome the country’s longstanding contributions to our daily efforts in support of all communities living in Kosovo,” the official said.
The NATO peacekeeping mission was deployed to Kosovo in 1999 after the alliance’s 78-day bombing campaign forced Serbian troops to end their crackdown on Albanians in now-independent Kosovo, formerly a province of southern Serbia.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and is recognized by more than 100 countries but not others, including Ukraine, five European Union member states, Russia and China.
The Belgrade government, which remains opposed to Kosovo’s independence, recognizes Ukraine in its entirety and has three times condemned the Russian invasion at the UN.
But Serbia, which depends almost entirely on Russian gasalso refuses to join the sanctions against Moscow.