A new war in Europe? Credit RSOE
Serbia has placed its security troops on the border with Kosovo in “the full state of combat readiness”, ignoring Nato’s calls for calm between the two wartime Balkan foes.
Serbia’s interior minister Bratislav Gasic said he “ordered the full combat readiness” of police and other security units, and that they are placed under the command of the army chief of staff according to “their operational plan”.
He said in a statement on Monday that he acted on the orders of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic so that “all measures be taken to protect the Serbian people in Kosovo”.
It was not immediately clear what this order meant on the ground as Serbian troops have been on alert for a while on the border with Kosovo.
Officials claim alleged harassment of Kosovo Serbs by ethnic Albanians who are a majority in the breakaway province that declared its independence in 2008.
Earlier on Monday, Nato-led peacekeepers said they were investigating a shooting incident in a tense northern region of Kosovo, urging calm as Serbia’s top military officials inspected their troops on the border in a show of combat readiness.
The incident on Sunday evening took place in Zubin Potok, a town where local ethnic Serbs have been manning road barricades for the past two weeks and where tensions have been running high.
The peacekeepers, known as KFOR, said the incident happened near one of their patrols. A statement said no one was injured and “we are working to establish all the facts”.
Serbia’s defence minister and the army’s chief of staff travelled to the border with Kosovo, praising the combat readiness of Serbian troops and their firepower, including howitzers and other military hardware.
Serbia, which has been armed through Russian donations and military purchases, has been sabre-rattling and threatening force against its former province for a long time.
Kosovo remains a potential flashpoint in the Balkans, years after the 1998-99 war that ended with Nato intervention.
Serbia does not recognise the 2008 declaration of independence of its former province, while Western efforts to mediate a solution so far have failed.
Fears of violence have soared since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The United States and most European Union countries have recognised Kosovo’s independence, while Serbia has relied on Russia and China in its bid to maintain a claim on the province.
The rising tensions involve several issues amid international efforts to step up mediation efforts.
Most recently, ethnic Serbs in the north put up roadblocks in protest of an arrest of a former Serb police officer.
Serbs in the north previously had walked out of Kosovo’s institutions, claiming harassment by Kosovo authorities.
Belgrade repeatedly has warned it would protect local Serbs “with all means” if they are attacked.
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