Serbs in Kosovo increase roadblocks while Serbia deploys army on border
Trucks are blocking off the town of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo, which is divided between Serbs and ethnic Albanians, who form 92 per cent of Kosovo’s 1.8 million population. Around 6 per cent are Serbs who claim to have been marginalised after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the army had been ordered to adopt its highest state of alert to “protect our people and preserve Serbia”.
He said Kosovo was preparing an “attack” on Serbs in the north of Kosovo to remove roadblocks that they began putting up this month in response to the arrest of a former Kosovo Serb police officer.
Serbia is demanding the return of its armed forces to areas of northern Kosovo with large numbers of ethnic Serbs, claiming that EU and Nato peacekeepers are failing to protect the minority. Nearly 4,000 Nato troops are deployed in Kosovo.
The current row started with vehicle registration plates. Prístina outlawed Serbian-registered plates, insisting that “Republic of Kosovo” plates be used instead. Ethnic Serb officials, judges and police officers resigned in protest and the Kosovo authorities called elections for December 18 in some majority-Serb areas. Voting was postponed until April because of unrest.
Serbs started blocking the border this month and barricaded streets in protest at the arrest of former police officers accused of involvement in the shootings of ethnic Albanian police.
In 2004 19 people were killed and hundreds injured following the wrongly reported drowning of three ethnically Albanian children by Serbs.
Serbia does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state. Neither does Russia, which has obstructed Kosovo’s United Nations membership process. Moscow is reportedly keen to spark fresh conflicts in the Balkans to distract attention away from its disastrous invasion of Ukraine.
Kosovo’s security council has blamed Serbia for the recent tensions, accusing Belgrade of “acting with all available means against the constitutional order of the Republic of Kosovo”. The European Union and Nato have called for restraint with the military alliance increasing its numbers of peacekeeping troops.
Ethnic Serbs in Mitrovica are blockading the town. Picture credit: YouTube