Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday evening that Milan Radoicic, deputy leader of the Belgrade-backed Srpska Lista political party in Kosovo, is in Serbia and will face questions about his alleged role in violence in the north of Kosovo on Sunday.
Vucic said that Radoicic faces questions after one Kosovo policemen was killed and two wounded in a clash between police and an armed group of Serbs near Banjska monastery. Three of the Serbs were also killed.
“Milan Radoicic has never hid. He will respond to the summons of the authorities of the Republic of Serbia. He is a man who considers himself a freedom fighter. But there are things and questions that he will have to answer,” Vucic told Serbian public broadcaster RTS.
Asked about a video allegedly showing Radoicic near Banjska monastery with an armed group, Vucic said that “whether Radoicic is on it or not it will be determined by the relevant authorities”.
On Monday, Kosovo’s Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla, who released the video, said that Radoicic’s presence among the gunmen was “yet more evidence of his terrorist activity”.
Radoicic, a powerful businessman with strong links to the Belgrade authorities, is considered to be the real powerbroker in the Serb-majority north of Kosovo.
He is wanted in Kosovo in connection with a corruption case involving illegal construction in the Brezovica mountain resort area. An indictment in the case of the murdered Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic also mentions Radoicic as one of the prime suspects leading the organised crime group that murdered Ivanovic, although he has not been indicted.
Speaking to RTS, Vucic said that for Kosovo Serbs, the three dead gunmen were martyrs – a narrative that has been backed by some pro-government newspapers in Serbia, which have portrayed the gunmen as heroes. Serbia also held a day of mourning for the three Kosovo Serbs on Wednesday.
Vucic insisted that the incident did not suit Serbia’s position in the ongoing Belgrade-Pristina dialogue to normalise relations, but added that he had been warning about potential trouble for more than a year, after a crisis over vehicle licence plates in 2022 led to Serbs setting up roadblocks in northern Kosovo.
He said that Serbia will ask for drone footage of the deaths of the policeman and the three Serbs. He claimed that there was no intention to kill the policeman, and that the incident started when Kosovo officers ran into “wire and explosives” that were part of a barricade set up by the gunmen. After that, he said, there was an exchange of gunfire in which the policeman was killed.
Kosovo police have said that policeman Afrim Bunjaku was killed by gunmen using a grenade launcher.
Vucic also said that Serbia has people who are ready to be protected witnesses and testify that one of the Serbs who died was shot directly in the head after he surrendered.
In Pristina meanwhile, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani told public broadcaster RTK on Wednesday evening that she had warned that such an incident might happen because of armed groups operating in the Serb-majority north of the country.
She said that “these are mainly structures of a paramilitary nature, which are heavily armed with military equipment, are prepared to fight in a military style, and have been bringing weapons illegally to the north of Kosovo for a long time”.
Osmani noted that Srpska Lista has not distanced itself from the violence, and accused the Serb Party of being “part of such attacks”.
Eight Kosovo Serbs were arrested over the killing of the police officer at the weekend, but four have been released due to a lack of evidence, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
The Kosovo authorities originally said that around 30 gunmen were involved. Large amounts of weapons were also found. It is unclear what happened to the rest of the gunmen.
The European Union’s office in Pristina told BIRN that the EU envoy had not received any request from Kosovo authorities for assistance in securing the extradition of any suspect from Serbia.
European Commission spokesperson Peter Stano said on Wednesday that the EU will wait for the completion of the investigation into what he described as a terrorist attack before coming to any conclusions about its response.
“We need to see this investigated, based on the results we will decide and take further steps… the European Union is not jumping to conclusion and taking political positions… before having a complete picture, especially if there is something so serious as we have seen on Sunday,” Stano told a press briefing.
Source : Balkan Insight