Amid ethnic tensions, Serbian army along Kosovo border on combat alert

Serbian soldiers train with the Lazar III 8x8 armored vehicle. [Photo: Serbian MoD]

After demonstrators and police battled in a majority-Serb town in Kosovo on Friday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic put the nation’s army on full combat alert and directed its forces to move closer to the border with Kosovo.

Defence Minister Milos Vucevic declared on live television that “an urgent movement (of troops) to the Kosovo border has been ordered.”

“It is obvious that there is terrorism against the Serb community in Kosovo,” he declared as per Reuters.

In the Kosovo town of Zvecan, where a recently elected ethnic Albanian mayor was attempting to assume his office, a throng had formed in front of the municipal building.

This caused a confrontation between police and demonstrators. To scatter protesters, police used tear gas.

Later, a police car was set on fire, according to a Reuters reporter.

Local elections were generally boycotted, which sparked the riots.

A significant setback for a March peace agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, some 50,000 Serbs living in four north Kosovo towns, including Zvecan, boycotted the vote on April 23 in protest that their requests for additional autonomy had not been realised, the news agency report said.

Local Serbs indicated they would not cooperate with the new mayors in the four municipalities—all from ethnic Albanian parties—because they do not speak for them.

The election turnout was 3.47%.

In an earlier statement, Pristina police claimed that they were helping the freshly elected mayors access the four northern communities’ municipal buildings.

A Reuters reporter overheard the mayor of Zvecan being successfully led into his office over a police radio.

Nearly ten years after the end of a war there, Serbs in the northern part of Kosovo refuse to recognise Serbia’s 2008 declaration of independence from Kosovo and continue to regard Belgrade as their capital.

More than 90% of the people in Kosovo are of ethnic Albanian descent, with Serbs making up the majority only in the northern part of the country.

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