As the world wakes up looking forward to another weekend, the population of Skopje lives in fear of rumours that Albanians will attack civilians in the Macedonian capital, as the UCK claims to have infiltrated its activists all over the country. Should the Albanians attack citizens in Skopje, this will be the declaration of war which will see the Balkans disintegrate into conflict. Tonight as this article is written, Skopje residents try to contact the Russian authorities to ask for help, since the western European powers are proving to be elusive, intrusive and disinterested. That Skopje is a real target is more than just a rumour. Sadri Ahmati, a rebel Albanian spokesperson declared yesterday: “The guerrillas are fighting to free the whole of our territory from the Macedonian Security Forces. The territory at issue here is that in which the Albanian population is in the majority. We are demanding all those cities that are, historically, our cities”. This from a people who cross national frontiers so as to have children, to register them citizens of that country, over a period of many years, and then to contest all national frontiers in the region, says all. The UCK, using the same name as the faction which wreaked terror in Kosovo, has now descended to the Macedonian border where easy money is to be made from extortion, smuggling, drugs, arms traffic and prostitution rings. Armed by Washington, trained by NATO, the UCK fighters are a highly mobile and well-equipped force. Their aim at present is to destabilise the Balkans in general and Macedonia in particular, at the orders of whom, one can only guess. Much was made by the world’s press of the killing yesterday of two Albanians in Tetovo but on closer analysis, TV pictures released by Macedonian television show that one of the Albanians threw a grenade at the security forces. It is easily seen in slow motion. Meanwhile, as the Albanians make a publicity stint around their unilateral ceasefire in Tetovo, they launch repeated attacks in Bujanovac, southern Serbia, another area where they had declared a ceasefire, and in Macedonia, fighting in Gracani continues. The Albanian ceasefires tend to be ephemeral and tactical, not permanent. Skopje will be the thermometer of the Balkans in the next few weeks. Skopje will measure the temperature of the Albanian hot-heads.
TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.RU LISBON