Belgrade’s move was triggered by the latest clashes in the breakaway province of Kosovo
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has placed the national armed forces on high alert and ordered units to move towards the administrative line dividing the breakaway province of Kosovo from the rest of the country. The move comes following clashes between police and protesters in a majority-Serb town in the region on Friday.
“An urgent movement of forces to the Kosovo border has been ordered,” Defense Minister Milos Vucevic confirmed in a TV broadcast, adding that it is clear that “terror against the Serb community in Kosovo” is continuing.
Vucevic said the security of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija was being threatened by the region’s ethnic Albanian prime minister Albin Kurti. He called on citizens to remain as calm as possible and not to fall for provocations.
Earlier in the day, Serbs in the town of Zvecan had clashed with police as a newly-elected ethnic Albanian mayor prepared to enter his office following local elections. The votes in four municipalities had been boycotted by the majority-Serb residents who had sought more autonomy and representation and regarded the votes as an attempt to seize the Serbian municipalities by illegitimate representatives. Turnout in the vote on April 23 was a mere 3.47%, with locals saying they would not work with the newly elected officials.
According to local media, police from Pristina used stun grenades and fired tear gas at protesters who had gathered in front of an administrative building, while Reuters reported that a police car had been set ablaze.
#Serbia President Vucic placed the army on full combat alert and ordered its units to move closer to the border with #Kosovo after protesters and police clashed in a majority Serb town in Kosovo.
Clashes in the town of Zvecan erupted after a crowd gathered in front of the… pic.twitter.com/XaFEAccBzD
— Guy Elster (@guyelster) May 26, 2023
In Zvecan, one of the Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo, a @Kosovo_Police car has been set on fire as Kosovo Serbs rebel against Albanian mayors entering the municipality buildings following the election boycott by Belgrade-aligned structures.pic.twitter.com/2sjH2DrXLz
— Jakub Bielamowicz (@KubaBielamowicz) May 26, 2023
RT Balkan reported that around a dozen people were admitted to hospital with minor injuries.
Vucevic told Pink TV that what President Vucic had been warning the international community about for days and weeks has now “turned out to be true,” accusing Pristina of escalating tensions and instigating terror against Serbs.
“Someone needs to understand that what Albin Kurti is doing is leading us to red lines and to a complete collapse of dialogue and an escalation on the ground,” Vucevic said.
Last Friday, Vucic declared that Serbia’s refusal to acquiesce to the West’s demands and recognize Kosovo’s independence had made his country a target for foreign interference, but that he would “never surrender” and would “never let them make Kosovo independent.”
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008 with the support of the US and many of its allies. The breakaway region is not recognized by several countries, including Russia and China, or by Serbia itself.
The EU, however, has repeatedly demanded that Belgrade must recognize and “normalize” relations with Pristina if it wants to become a member of the bloc.