Stratfor: Lights Out In Kosovo?

Michael Pollak mpollak at
Sat Aug 7 00:19:08 PDT 1999

[This is a weird story, even for them. Especially in conjunction with Erlanger's story in the New York Times today about 7 different peacekeeper units getting fired on. The story gets confirmed in a follow-up by BBC]

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 Kosovo's 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


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.

2310 GMT, 990806 - Kosovo Power Outage Follow-Up

Following up a previous Stratfor commentary

[], BBC and

Macedonian radio have both reported that most of Kosovo is without

power due to a shutdown at a Bulgarian power plant. Officials at the

U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. State Department said they had

no knowledge of the outage. Further attempts to contact the UN Mission

in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the KFOR headquarters in Pristina have been

unsuccessful. The lack of power in Kosovo is deemed by Stratfor to be

a serious matter, especially considering that Agence France-Presse

reported KFOR troops were being kept "busy" by irregular forces

exploiting the darkness, although the story has been strangely absent

from media reports coming from the region. We will, of course,

continue to monitor this situation.

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