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UK to Deploy Additional Troops in Kosovo After North Clashes

The UK has decided to deploy additional troops to NATO’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, KFOR, after the violent attack on Kosovo Police on September 24 in northern Kosovo in the village of Banjska/Banjske in the municipality of Zvecan, where one Kosovo policeman was shot dead.

“Following a request from Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and approval by the North Atlantic Council, the UK will deploy around 200 soldiers from 1st Battalion of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment in the coming days to join the 400-strong British contingent already in country as part of an annual exercise,” the UK government announced on Sunday.

KFOR is a NATO-led international peacekeeping force and has been present in Kosovo since the war there ended in 1999. Once about 50,000 strong, it now numbers about 4,500 troops, from 27 contributing nations with Italy (852 soldiers), Turkey (780) and United States (679) as three top contributors, according to KFOR’s last update in June.

Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, wrote on Twitter that Albania had “communicated at the highest levels of the Euro-Atlantic alliance and we have found maximum readiness” that “KFOR should take control of the north” of Kosovo as soon as possible.

But Rama’s request was dismissed by Germany’s Ambassador to Kosovo, John Rohde, who said such a move could happen only if Kosovo authorities call on EU’s EULEX and NATO’s KFOR mission to intervene.

“I don’t see the need that KFOR takes over [the north] because we have a sovereign country [Kosovo] with a law enforcement agency who acted very professionally,” Rohde told BIRN’s Kallxo Pernime show on Friday.

“Kosovo is a sovereign country, Kosovo Police is the law enforcement agency in Kosovo supported by KFOR and EULEX and if there is a request by Police to act… they will according to the rule. But there was no request and we commend the KP on its professional handling of the situation,” he added.

Top Serbian officials, including President Aleksandar Vucic and Defence Minister Milos Vucevic, have praised cooperation with KFOR.

“The cooperation of the [Serbian] Ministry of Defence with KFOR is good and continuous, it runs in accordance with Resolution 1244 and in accordance with the Kumanovo Agreement, it is daily and has been going on for years,” Vucevic said on Monday.

Kosovo police-confiscations weapons north

Serbia denies attackers received military training

Kosovo Police on Sunday published footage from police armoured vehicles allegedly showing the attack against them, as well as footage, claiming it was from confiscated drones, showing training. BIRN could not independently verify the footage and the claims.

Kosovo PM Albin Kurti, resharing some of the footage, claimed that “the terrorists who carried out the attacks trained in Pasuljanske Livade, one of the Serbian Army’s key bases, four days before the attacks. Other exercises took place in the Kopaonik base. The attacks enjoyed the full support & planning of the Serbian state”.

The Chief of the General Staff of Serbian Army, Milan Mojsilovic, and Defence Minister Vucevic denied that Milan Radoicic or his group joined any paramillitary excercises at Pasuljanske livade.

“Milan Radoicic did not participate in the training at Pasuljanski Livade, nor did he attend, nor did he fire any grenades, he did not respond to any calls, and what is he doing on private property it’s not a thing of Serbian Army”, he said.

On Friday, Radoicic, known as the real power holder of the north of Kosovo, took sole responsibility for the attack, claiming that he organised what he called a “defence” operation against the Kosovo authorities himself, without the knowledge of his party, Srpska Lista, or the Serbian authorities in Belgrade.

Defence Minister Vucevic denied claims that videos Pristina has published are authentic. “The fact that someone releases termovision photages from an unclear location with completely unidentified persons does not mean anything“, said Vucevic, adding that the Hammers in the videos look more like those Kosovo forces have, showing photos of them at the press conference.

He added that the fact the arms that the group led by Radoicic used were manufactured in Serbia proves nothing because the same weapons are used by the Kosovo Police, shoving photos of KP members with arms manufactured in Serbia.

Meanwhile, the head of Serbia’s office for Kosovo, Petar Petkovic, showed a photo of one of the murdered gunmen, Bojan Mijailovic, claiming that Serbian experts have concluded that Mijailovic was killed face to face, while he was lying wounded on the ground. BIRN could not independently verify that photo and claim. 

“The issue of the autopsy is crucial when it comes to the manner in which they were killed, especially Bojan Mijailović,” said Petkovic.

He added that EULEX has told Belgrade that the autopsy of the murdered Serbs was performed on September 26, but the death certificate received by all three families states that the autopsy was published on September 25.

“That is why it is of crucial importance that we see the EULEX report on the autopsies because Pristina is falsifying the facts and that is why it is clear why EULEX was refused to participate in the investigation on September 24 and the following days,” he stated.

He said that Belgrade had requested that Serbian experts participate in the autopsy, but “they [Kosovo] didn’t allow us to, because they are obviously hiding something”.

The three murdered gunmen were buried on Sunday. The Kosovo Institute of Forensic Medicine finished the autopsies one day prior and has yet to publish the results.

The director of Kosovo Police, Gazmend Hoxha, said on Sunday that, based on the investigation so far, “there is a [Serbian] plan for the total annexation of the northern part of Kosovo, foreseen in the initial phase with 37 positions from where our police units would be attacked not only in Banjska, but everywhere in the northern part of Kosovo”.

But on September 30, President Vučić denied planning to invade any prt of Kosovo. He said he “does not intend to order the army” to cross the border with Kosovo it is also not true that Serbia has sent the army to the border.

 “Last year we had 14,000 people near the administrative line, today we have 7,500 and we will reduce it to 4,000,” Vucic told the UK Financial Times. On September 29, the US called on Serbia to withdraw its troops from the border, calling their move a “very destabilizing development”. 

A day later, the government of Kosovo and the European Union also asked Serbia to withdraw its troops from the border.

Source : Balkan Insight