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article imageKosovo prosecutor asks to lift Russian UN staff's immunity

By by Tanja Vujisic and Ismet Hajdari in Pristina (AFP)     May 29, 2019 in World

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 Russian national, plus a local Kosovo Serb UN employee, were taken into custody on Tuesday for allegedly joining an effort to block police from entering a town in the north.

The Russian man was later released and hospitalised, though a district prosecutor on Wednesday asked to revoke his diplomatic immunity to proceed with the legal case.

He is suspected of "obstructing an official in the execution of duty," said Shyqri Syla, a district prosecutor in Mitrovica, the main city in Kosovo's north.

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.

The UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) expressed concern about "serious allegations raised that police applied force against clearly-identified UN staff which exceeds reasonable standards".

UNMIK "has yet to receive adequate communication from the authorities as to the reason for their detention". spokesperson Sanam Dolatshahi told AFP.

According to Kosovo's police chief the men used a car with UNMIK plates to help form a "barricade" used to block police from entering the town of Zubin Potok.

But Dolatshahi said the staff "were carrying out their responsibilities to monitor and report on an unfolding situation".

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

The raids marked a rare intervention by Kosovo police in the north, where the mainly Serb population remains loyal to Belgrade more than a decade after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.

Dozens of people -- including 19 police officers and four customs officials -- were arrested on suspicion of crimes like smuggling goods and bribery.

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

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

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