Alleged Kosovo ambush leader Milan R. detained in Serbia; EC considering punitive measures

The alleged leader of the Kosovo Banjska ambush that saw one Kosovo policeman killed, as well as at least three Serbs, Milan R., has been arrested in Serbia and placed in 48-hour detention, which could be extended pending further investigation, according to local news sites.

The arrest, which was reported Oct. 3, by the N1 news site, comes following more than a week of barbed comments from both the Kosovo and Serb government—as well as massive international pressure from the US and the EU for both sides to de-escalate. Moreover, various politicians in the West have expressed both concern and outrage, following the raid, which saw an estimated 30 well-armed ethnic Serbs ambush a Kosovo police patrol near Banjska/Zvecan Saturday night, Sept. 23.

The Serbs immediately retreated to a local monastery where a gun battle continued throughout Sunday. Although three Serbs were immediately identified as killed, there were relatively few arrests, and Kosovo has since accused Serbia of being behind the raid, wanting war and also harboring members of the group.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic immediately condemned the killing of the Kosovo policeman, but he also at first did not confirm that Milan R. was in Serbia. Later, he confirmed that Milan R. was in Serbia and that he would be questioned, but he added that the truth will come out about the raid and claimed that one injured fighter was de facto executed by Kosovo forces.

Yet international opinion has not been kind, especially as Serbian press reported that Vucic not only met immediately afterward with Russian officials and that he also has plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Likewise, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti—who was criticized for holding up recent normalization talks between the two states—made the most of the situation by revealing heavy weapons and some 24 SUVs seized after the raid. He also claimed that Serbia was massing forces on the border—a claim that was somewhat confirmed by the US with Department of State Spokesman John Kirby calling the size of the Serbian buildup “unprecedented.”

Various reports have noted a Serb pullback, following US pressure—although Vucic has denied the buildup—and the European Commission on Oct. 2, announced that it is “ready” to undertake “punitive measures” against Serbia.

European Commission spokesman Peter Stano added that “the European Union stands ready to assess measures vis-a-vis Serbia if member states decide that they have enough information, enough facts,” as cited by BNE Intellinews, adding that “if the EU member states decide, then we will decide the necessary measure against Serbia [if it is decided that] Serbia is not doing everything to de-escalate the situation.”

Vojska Srbije, CC BY 3.0 RS <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/rs/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons

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