Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has put his military on high alert after Kosovan police raided an ethnic Serb-majority area of the breakaway region in violation of a spoken agreement between Belgrade and Pristina.
Vucic has accused Kosovo’s authorities of attempting to “criminalize” and intimidate ethnic Serbs as he vowed to protect them, Serbian national broadcaster RTS reports.
Kosovo special police (ROSU) launched a raid in region’s north. Gunfire was reportedly heard and armored police vehicles were seen on roads as police arrested alleged 13 ethnic Serb residents.
Kosovo’s foreign minister tweeted that the operation targeted members of an “organized crime network involved in smuggling, bribery, etc.”
Gunfire can be heard in videos from the area posted online. Clashes reportedly took place in the town of Zubin Potok, where locals erected barricades and burned tires in an effort to resist the police operation. Several Serbs and one policeman were injured, RTS reports.
Kosovan authorities have warned Belgrade to stay out of the matter and urged local Serbs to “support the fight against organized crime.”
The Kosovo police upon the request of the Special Prosecutor and the Police Inspectorate is conducting a operation in northern Kosovo to arrest Kosovo citizens and Kosovo Police Members who are part of a organized crime network involved in smuggling, bribery, etc.
— Behgjet Pacolli (@pacollibehgjet) May 28, 2019
A Russian citizen member of UNMIK, the United Nations mission in Kosovo, is also among those detained by ROSU, Vucic said.
Moscow views the ROSU raids as “another provocation aimed to intimidate and force out the non-Albanian population and forcibly establish control of the area,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in an official statement. It has accused the US and EU of emboldening Kosovo’s “provocative behavior.”
Kosovan actors have grown used to getting away with provocations.
In 2013, Belgrade and Pristina made a spoken agreement that Kosovo’s forces would stay out of the Serb-majority northern areas of the breakaway region. Despite that, Kosovo has repeatedly sent its special forces there. During a visit to the area by Kosovan president Hashim Thaci last September,