The government of Serbia has put its troops on high alert due to growing tensions in Kosovo. Several roadblocks have been set up by Serbian groups living in the independent province in protest against the arrest of a former police officer.
Serbian Defense Minister Milos Vucevic announced that the Army is at the highest level of alert, i.e. “ready for the use of armed force,” at the request of President Aleksandar Vucic, due to increased tension in Kosovar territory.
The relationship between the Kosovo government and the Serbian population living in its territory is becoming more tense every day. On Tuesday (27), new barricades were erected by Serb groups, disrupting traffic on the road connecting the northern part of the Serb-majority town of Mitrovica to the southern part of the Albanian-majority town.
The Defense Minister said that the Serbian military presence will be expanded from the current 1,500 troops to 5,000 men in the region.
President Vucic had already sent Army Chief General Milan Mojsilovic to the Kosovo border the day before. “The situation there is complicated and complex,” the military chief told the Pink broadcaster while on his way to Raska, 10 kilometers from the border.
According to him, the presence of the armed forces is necessary to ensure security “along the administrative line” that demarcates Kosovo’s territory.
Serbia does not recognize the independence of its former southern province, proclaimed in 2008. Belgrade encourages the 120,000 Serbs living in Kosovo to defy local authorities as the Kosovar government tries to consolidate its sovereignty over the entire territory.
Crisis began with ruling against Serbian cars
In November, police, judges, prosecutors, and civil servants took to the streets in protest against a ban on Serbs living in Kosovo using Serbian-issued license plates. The social movement made the government in Pristina back down on the decision.
Days later, a former Kosovo Serb policeman was arrested on charges of committing war crimes between 1998 and 1999, at a time when Albanian rebels were fighting former Yugoslav forces. Two other policemen were also arrested, one of them accused of organizing a terrorist act.
Since then, hundreds of Serbs have maintained roadblocks in northern Kosovo. The blockades paralyze traffic at two border crossings with Serbia.
Tension grew on Monday, when Serbian media released a video shared on social media in which gunshots are heard. The media claimed that the images were made during a clash between Serbs and Kosovar forces trying to dismantle a barricade on Sunday (25).
The information was denied by Kosovo police, who claim that they were not involved in exchanges of fire. The press in Pristina claims that NATO peacekeepers were patrolling the area at the time the video was recorded. According to Kosovo Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla, the shooting was an attack on a Kosovo International Security Force (KFOR) patrol.
Last week, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic had said that the situation in Kosovo was “on the verge of armed conflict.
(With information from Reuters and AFP) *** Translated by the DEFCONPress FYI Team ***