power out in Kosovo? (Maybe OT if not a y2k fault)

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From the daily Stratfor intelligence email

Stratfor site

2340 GMT, 990806 - Lights Out In Kosovo?

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported August 5 that a power plant in Bulgaria was unexpectedly shutdown August 4, leaving Kosovo without electricity. AFP cited officials with the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) stating that the power outage began on August 4 and could last until August 6. The report also quoted a KFOR representative involved with civilian operations saying the shutdown had resulted in a "busy night" for peacekeepers, and had also affected telephone and water supplies. British KFOR troops said that their engineers were working on restoring the Obilic power station, which they said could provide up to 30 percent of Kosovos power needs. No completion time was specified. AFP reported that the KFOR Media Center and UN police headquarters, both located in Pristina, had power August 5. Both presumably have generators.

Stratfor has worked diligently to confirm this story independently, although no other media outlets have reported it thus far. The offices of the UN High Commission for Refugees in New York and Washington, D.C., were unaware of the situation, although later the Washington office said it could not confirm the story. Both NATO and UN websites were without information on the outage, and the daily NATO briefing made no mention of it. A researcher at the U.S. Energy Information Association said that while Kosovo was linked to Bulgaria through the Serb town of Nis, other power lines connected Kosovo to Macedonia and Montenegro. Furthermore, the researcher noted these lines had not been damaged during the NATO air campaign, and could supply Kosovo with sufficient power. Calls to KFOR headquarters in Pristina and in Italy went unanswered.

There are numerous possibilities that accompany this information, and while we have been unable to verify its authenticity, we feel it is in the best interest to report it. Agence France-Presse is a reliable source, and when contacted said they had no intention of retracting the story. Going on the supposition that the story is correct, we feel there are three possible scenarios concerning the power outage in Kosovo.

First, the story is entirely genuine, and a Bulgarian power station has been shut down. This is possible, although it fails to explain why the power is not off in Serbia as well. The only power line coming from Bulgaria to Kosovo travels through Nis, so the plant shutdown would cause power to go out in Serbia as well. Power was reportedly off for a brief time in Serbia yesterday, but it was restored within hours. It also does not explain the darkening of Kosovo, because Bulgaria provides the province with only a fraction of its power.

The second possibility is that the power from Bulgaria is being terminated in Nis, effectively blacking out Kosovo. The Serb government may have been in control of this switch for quite some time, and has now decided to flicker the lights in Pristina. Again, the motivation behind this move is unclear, because it is only a temporary tactic and could have been used more effectively during the NATO bombing campaign or earlier in the NATO occupation. Still, the idea that the Serbs shut off the lights would explain the extent of the blackout in Kosovo, in that Serbia could shut off more than just the Bulgarian feed.

Finally, the power cutoff could have occurred in Pristina itself, although whose aims this would serve is unclear. Whether the power is being tampered with by Kosovar Albanians, Serbs or other factions on the ground is unknown, as is the safety and security of the power terminus from Nis. This situation is very strange, in that either no one seems to know about it or thinks it is important, or somebody is covering it up. Stratfor will continue to report information on this story as it becomes available.

-- robert waldrop (rmwj@soonernet.com), August 07, 1999

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