Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has ordered that “all measures be taken to protect the Serbian people in Kosovo.”
Serbia has placed its security forces on the Kosovo border in a “full state of combat readiness,” senior officials said, amid increasingly tense relations with their neighbor and despite calls from the European Union and NATO to reduce tensions between what were once wartime. enemies
“The President of Serbia… ordered the Serbian army to be at the highest level of combat readiness, that is, at the level of the use of armed force,” Serbian Defense Minister Milos Vucevic said in a statement. a statement Monday night.
He added that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has also ordered that the special armed forces be reinforced from the existing 1,500 to 5,000, Vucevic said.
The country’s Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic said he had “ordered the full combat readiness” of the police and other security units and that they be placed under the command of the army chief of staff in accordance with “his operational plan “.
He said in a statement that he acted on the orders of President Vucic so that “all measures are taken to protect the Serb people in Kosovo.”
Vucic’s orders come after Serbian army chief Gen. Milan Mojsilovic was sent to the Kosovo border on Sunday, though it was not immediately clear what the new orders mean on the border where Serbian troops have been. on alert for some time.
Northern Kosovo has been especially nervous since November, when hundreds of ethnic Serb workers integrated into the Kosovo police, as well as the judiciary, such as judges and prosecutors, walked off the job in protest of a controversial decision to ban Serbs live in Kosovo. of the use of license plates issued by Belgrade.
Serbia, which does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence, has been making noise and threatening force against its former province, and now independent Kosovo, for a long time, and the current tension remains a potential flash point. Western efforts to broker a solution have so far failed.
Earlier on Monday, NATO-led peacekeepers said they were investigating a shooting incident in the restive northern region of Kosovo and urged calm as Serbia’s top military officials inspected their troops at the border in a demonstration of combat readiness.
The Sunday night incident took place in Zubin Potok, a town where local Serbs have been operating roadblocks for the past two weeks and where tensions have risen.
The peacekeepers, known as KFOR, said the shooting occurred near one of their patrols and involved unknown persons. A statement said no one was injured and “we are working to establish all the facts.”
— @NATO – KFOR (@NATO_KFOR) December 26, 2022
“It is important that all involved avoid any rhetoric or action that could cause tensions and escalate the situation,” KFOR said in a statement. “We hope that all actors refrain from provocative shows of force and seek the best solution to ensure the safety of all communities.”
Fears of violence have been running high since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The United States and most EU countries have recognized Kosovo’s independence, while Serbia has leaned on Russia and China as it tries to maintain its claim to its former province.
The rising tensions involve various issues amid international efforts to step up mediation efforts. More recently, ethnic Serbs in the north put up barricades in protest of the arrest of a former Serb police officer.
The Kosovo government has asked NATO troops, deployed in 1999 after NATO bombed Serbia out of Kosovo, to remove Serbian roadblocks. Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti, KFOR commander Major General Angelo Michele Ristuccia and Lars-Gunnar Wigermark, who heads an EU public order mission, met on Monday to discuss the situation, KFOR said. On twitter.
Kurti’s office said that “the common conclusion of this meeting is that freedom of movement should be restored and there should be no roadblocks on any road.”
For its part, Serbia has asked KFOR to deploy up to 1,000 of its troops in northern Kosovo, populated by Serbs, to protect Kosovo Serbs from alleged harassment by ethnic Albanians, who are the majority in the country. The request has so far not been granted.
Adding to the tensions, Serbian Patriarch Porfirije was denied entry into Kosovo at a border crossing on Monday after saying he would like to deliver a message of peace for Serbian Orthodox Christmas, which falls on January 7.