Alarm bells ring in Kosovo
Belgrade: Serb barsricades welcome ethnic Albanian special forces, as Belgrade warns breakaway Province against a crackdown
On Sunday, air raid sirens and church bells rang in Kosovo where ethnic Serbs live. Special police armed with heavy weapons arrived at Pristina’s administrative crossings to Serbia. Belgrade’s President Aleksandar Vucic stated that Serbia is committed to peace but won’t tolerate persecution.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti cited a 2011 agreement with Belgrade to declare all Serbian documents and license plates invalid as of August 1, and announced an operation to apply “Justice and law” to all territories claimed by his government. The province of Serbia, occupied by NATO in 1999, declared independence in 2008 with US support – but was not recognized by Belgrade.
Jarinje’s administrative main crossing was blocked by special police. Residents of the Serb community responded by setting up their own barricades just like they did in 2011. Unconfirmed reports suggested that at least one Serb was shot.
The Serbian army has been put on alert, but the Defense Ministry in Belgrade issued a statement on Sunday that no troops had crossed the administrative line, saying that rumors of their having clashed with ethnic Albanian police were “Misinformation” spread on behalf of Pristina.
Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia addressed the nation this Sunday. He stated that Kosovo’s authorities are selectively using provisions from old agreements they have never adhered to. He also compared the planned crackdown on documents and license plates to Croatia’s military operation in 1995 that resulted in the mass exodus of Serbs.
“Serbs will cease to be victims of atrocities,” Vucic said. He asked the local Serbs “Provocations are not acceptable” and the Albanians to “Bring them to their senses,” while also pleading to Pristina’s Western backers “Pay attention to both international law and the reality of the ground. Don’t allow your wards create conflict.”
“We are not interested in war and conflict. While we will continue to pray for peace and work towards peace, let me assure you that there will not be surrender and Serbia will prevail. Serbia will prevail if they are willing to persecute, harass, and kill Serbs.,” Vucic said.
On the crossing between the Albanian-dominated southern side and the Serb-inhabited northern, a second barricade in Kosovska Mitrovica was put up. According to local media, several hundred ethnic Albanians gathered along the southern side of the city’s bridge. Some were armed. This sighting has raised fears about the 2004 March pogrom in which some 50,000 Albanians set fire to dozens of Serb villages and churches, as well as monasteries, across the province. It lasted several days until NATO peacekeepers intervened to end it.