Kosovo police and local media reported explosions, gunshots and roadblocks overnight in the north of the country, where the majority of the population is ethnic Serb, despite the postponement of municipal elections on December 18, which the Serbs opposed. No injuries were reported.
The European Union mission to uphold the rule of law, known as EULEX, also indicated that “last night a flash grenade was thrown at a EULEX reconnaissance patrol”that did not cause injury or property damage.
The EU contingent, which has 134 Polish, Italian and Lithuanian police officers deployed in the north of the countrycalled on “those responsible to refrain from further provocative actions” and urged Kosovo’s institutions to “bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Unidentified masked men were seen at barricades cutting off major roads to the Serbian border, and the Kosovo authorities closed two border crossings to all traffic and pedestrians.
The situation was calm on Sunday morning, albeit with more Kosovar Albanian police in the mixed-population areas in the north, and more police and soldiers elsewhere.
Recent tensions remain high, and the exchange of statements between Serbia and Kosovo has intensified.
The president of Serbian said days ago that would officially request NATO permission to deploy Serb troops in northern Kosovoalthough he admitted that it was highly unlikely that it would be granted.
Serbian authorities say a 1999 United Nations resolution ending the country’s bloody crackdown on majority Kosovar Albanian separatists allows some 1,000 Serb soldiers to return to Kosovo. NATO bombarded Serbia to end the war and expel its troops from Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.
The NATO-led peacekeepers, who have been working in Kosovo since the war, would have to authorize the entry of Serb troops, something very unlikely because in practice it would mean handing over the security of the northern areas of Kosovo with Serb populations to Serb forces, something that would drastically increase tensions in the Balkans.
“We don’t want a conflict. We want peace and progress, but we will respond to the aggression with all our might,” Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on social media.
Kurti told the European Union and the United States that not condemning such violence, which he said was orchestrated by Belgrade, would destabilize Kosovo.
Tensions had risen in the north ahead of elections originally scheduled for December 18. The vote has been postponed to April 23 in an attempt to defuse tensions.
The vote was called after ethnic Serbs resigned in November in protest of the Kosovar government’s decision to ban Serb vehicle license plates.
Serbian legislators, prosecutors and police officers also left their posts in local governments.
Despite attempts by US and EU officials to de-escalate hostilities, tensions have remained high in Kosovo since it declared independence. Serbia, backed by allies Russia and China, has refused to recognize Kosovo as a state.
So much Serbia and Kosovo want to join the EUbut Brussels has warned that they must resolve their differences and normalize their relations before they can apply for membership.
(with information from AP)
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