Kosovo reported that it partially closed the border with Serbia

The Kosovo Police have closed the Brnjak and Jarinje border crossings for traffic “due to the blocking of roads to their approaches”, according to the police statement collected by the Kosovar radio station RTK, which indicates that the police deploy their patrols in the north of Kosovo, where the Serb minority is concentrated.

For its part, the Serbian defense minister denied clashes between the Serbian army and the Kosovo police.

The new tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, with blockades of border crossings and roads, escalated within hours of the start of Pristina’s implementation of the ban on Serb documents and license plates in Kosovo, a measure opposed by the Serbs, who have barricaded the roads leading from the northern city of Mitrovica, where there is a Serb majority, to the border crossings of Jarinje and Brnjak.

Kosovo announced at the end of June that it will prohibit the use of Serbian identity documents and license plates on its territory from August 1., in a decision similar to the one that last September generated a crisis that implied that the two countries increased their security forces on the border. Under the new measures, those who enter Kosovo with identity cards issued by Serbia will receive a temporary Kosovar document valid for 90 days for their stay in the country.

Also, car license plates issued by Serbia for Kosovar cities with a Serb majority will have to be replaced by official Kosovo ones from August 1 and in everything almost before September 30.

The ban on driving in Kosovo with Serbian license plates led to roadblocks last September by the Kosovar Serb minority.

Kosovo reacted by deploying special forces, with armor and automatic weapons, and Serbia raised the alert level of its troops near the border.

Conflict between Kosovo and Serbia

In the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo was a province belonging to Serbia, one of the six republics that made up the Federation. This region, with a majority population of Albanian origin, had at that time a special status, which gave it the right to form its own government and be represented in Parliament and the Federation presidency. This province also controlled their education, justice and police.

In March 1989, on the eve of the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, then Serbian president, revoked Kosovar autonomy.

This decision provoked huge demonstrations by the Albanian population throughout the province and clashes with the police that caused 24 deaths, including two agents of the security forces.

Shpejtim Pefqeli demands that citizens of the European Union (EU) who enter his restaurant in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, show him a “visa”, out of spite for the visa obligation that the EU imposes on Kosovars. (KUSHTRIM KADRIU/)

Kosovar Albanians who denied allegiance to the Milosevic regime lost their jobs in schools, hospitals, the media, in the police or in the security forces.

The secretary of the Kosovar Writers’ Union, Ibrahim Rugova, dubbed the “Gandhi of Kosovo”, launched a peaceful resistance movement by creating parallel state structures. He founded a government that functioned in the shadows, which provided the population with essential services at home (education, health) during almost the entirety of the 1990s, mainly financed by the diaspora.

In 1997 a separatist guerrilla group, the UCK, emerged and criticized the non-violent movement as ineffective.

In March 1998, Belgrade launched its first offensive against the UCK in the central region of Drenica, among the main pro-independence strongholds.

After several hours of siege, the Serb forces attacked the houses where commander Adem Jashari had barricaded himself, in the village of Prekaz. About 80 Albanians, half of them members of his family, were killed by the Serbs.

Members of the KFOR peacekeeping force patrol the area near the Kosovo-Serbia border crossing in Jarinje, Kosovo October 2, 2021. REUTERS/Laura Hasani
Members of the KFOR peacekeeping force patrol the area near the border crossing between Kosovo and Serbia in Jarinje, Kosovo, on October 2, 2021. REUTERS/Laura Hasani (LAURA HASANI/)

This massacre is considered the trigger of the beginning of the war.

About 13,000 people were killed, including about 11,000 Albanians, most of them civilians. Numerous cases of torture were recorded. And, hundreds of thousands of civilians were displaced.

Belgrade tried to cover up its war crimes by burying thousands of bodies in mass gravessome located in Serbia itself.

The war between Kosovar Albanian separatist guerrillas, who used terrorist tactics, and Serbian forces, who resorted to brutal repression, ended with the intervention of NATO in 1999.

After the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, in 2000, the remains of hundreds of Albanians were found at a base of a special police unitnear Belgrade, dozens more in a center of this same entity located in eastern Serbia, and others in the vicinity of a lake in the west.

Kosovo remained under international supervision until it unilaterally declared its independence in 2008.

russian propaganda

With thousands of NATO soldiers stationed in the area to ensure peace, Russian propaganda is gaining ground in Serbia. There, the Kremlin has found a willing audience, where simmering hatred of NATO and the United States has led many to side with Moscow.

While most of Europe has tried to crack down on the Russian media, it flourishes in Serbia, where even state-backed outlets often repeat the Kremlin line. Under President Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian media has been increasingly forced to toe the government line, while the few remaining independent outlets have faced constant pressure from the authorities.

During the run-up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Serbia’s leading tabloid, the Informer, published numerous effusive articles praising Vladimir Putin, along with a cover story two days before the invasion with the headline: “Ukraine has attacked Russia ”.

“Serbia’s pro-government propaganda media created a cult of Putin’s personality that surpasses even the one they built for Vucic,” said Dinko Gruhonjic, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Novi Sad. “It enjoys almost divine status,” he added.

In the capital, Belgrade, T-shirts with Putin’s face are sold at souvenir kiosks, while the letter Z – which has become the Russian symbol of the invasion – has been painted on walls across the city.

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