In a potential escalation of the Kosovo conflict, top Serbian official says Belgrade may seek to deploy up to 1,000 security personnel in Kosovo under the terms of UN resolution 1244.
The Director of Serbia’s Office for Kosovo, Petar Petkovic, said that Serbia will “reconsider” returning part of its security personnel to Kosovo after Kosovo increased its police presence in the Serb-majority north of the country.
“Belgrade will consider, in accordance with [UN SC] Resolution 1244, the return of up to 1,000 [members] of our security forces to the territory of Kosovo and Metohija as provided for under Resolution 1244,“ Petkovic told media on Thursday evening.
Blerim Vela, an adviser to Kosovo’s President, said that Serbia was “moving from covert violent actions of its illegal structures in Kosovo to overt threats to use police and military forces to conduct aggression against Kosovo”.
“As per Russia’s playbook, this is a blatant threat to endanger peace and stability in Kosovo and the wider region,” Vela said on Twitter.
Hours earlier, Kosovo police said in press release that their priority is “to provide security for all citizens. Therefore, assessing the situation and the current trends in the northern municipalities, the police will increase the police presence in the north in the coming days to achieve the objectives”.
Police also announced that at around 11pm on Thursday a police officer was injured in Serbovc, a village near Zvecan/Zvecane, when the patrol was attacked by armed persons in a drive-by shooting.
“The police officer suffered light injuries and the police car was heavily damaged. Relevant police units went to the scene while the injured officer was transported to the Family Medicine Center for medical care,” Police said.
BIRN journalists were assaulted on Friday morning by a masked person in Mitrovica North, near the Technical School, as they were on their way
The incident occurred while the BIRN team’s car approached the crossroads near the school, while a group of masked persons was seen observing the roadside.
The attacker hit the car with his fists while heavy objects were thrown in the direction of the car by masked group.
The Association of Journalists of Kosovo, AJK, on Friday condemned the attack and expressed “deep concern” over the security of journalists reporting from northern Kosovo.
“AJK condemns the attack and demands from Kosovo Police to provide necessary conditions for journalists who are reporting from this part of the country,” AJK said.
After the Kosovo war, in June 1999 Serbian police and military withdraw from Kosovo and according to UN SC resolution 1244 “after the withdrawal an agreed number of Yugoslav and Serb military and police personnel will be permitted to return to Kosovo”, to perform some functions.
These functions are: liaison with the international civil mission and the international security presence; marking/clearing minefields; maintaining a presence at Serb patrimonial sites and maintaining a presence at key border crossings.
Petkovic told media in Belgrade that some “over 300 to 350 policemen, one hundred patrol policemen with bulletproof vests and one hundred ROSU [former police unit] members with long barrels in full military gear and with armored vehicles entered the north of Kosovo and Metohija at around 20:30 from the direction of South Mitrovica”.
He added they “deployed and literally occupied and blocked the entire city of Kosovska Mitrovica in order to finally station themselves in the mixed settlements located in the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica”
“The reason for the incursion of the Albanian police in the north of Kosovo and Metohija is allegedly that the Albanians who live in mixed communities are afraid of what is happening in the north of Kosovo and Metohija”, Petkovic told media.
After Serbs from north of Kosovo collectively withdraw from Kosovo institutions in the beginning of November – as continuation of years long licence plates dispute – Kosovo government decided to switch Serbian minister and MPs, EULEX increase their presence in the field and government also decided to organize local elections in four municipalities in north of Kosovo, mostly populated with Serbs, which already triggered incidents.