Last weekend’s North Kosovo ambush, which promises to have significant international political impact on the Balkans, took another spin into the unknown with the Kosovo government now accusing Serbia of backing Kosovan ethnic-Serbs who attacked first a Kosovo police patrol and then fled to a local monastery in the village of Banjska for a day-long gun battle near the Serbia-Kosovo border.
The Kosovo government pointed to alleged participation of Serb List Party Deputy Leader Milan Radoicic, claiming that he was wounded some time last weekend, and that he was recovering in a Belgrade military hospital. The Serbian government has since denied Radoicic’s participation.
The Kosovo government, lead by Prime Minister Albin Kurti, also pointed to seized weapons and equipment that originated in Serbia, with this including a grenade launcher and two armoured cars, with documentation allegedly proving that the grenade launcher was produced by Serbian Zastava, a local weapons manufacturing firm, according to the UK publication, The Guardian.
There is little doubt that the attackers were heavily armed, with Kosovo police claiming to have also confiscated 24 SUV vehicles, 29 anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 150 dynamite charges, 142 mortar shells, 75 hand grenades, seven rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and eight anti-tank mines, according to Kosovo’s Minister of Internal Affairs Xhelal Sveçla and Police Director Gazmend Hoxha, as cited by Fox News.
The raid has prompted accusations from both sides, as well as once again theories that the infamous Russian-backed mercenary company, the Wagner Group, has become active in Kosovo. This has come due in part to reports that some of the attackers also spoke Russian, and the raid appeared to be both professional and highly organized. A Wagner presence has not been confirmed,
Noteworthy, however, is that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the Serbian government have also made accusations. While Vucic immediately condemned the ambush, which killed one ethnic-Albanian police officer, he also said that Kurti’s “terror” in Kosovo was responsible for ethnic-Serb unrest. The Serbian government has also pointed to an almost 100 percent ethnic-Albanian police force, elections that placed ethnic-Albanians in 95-percent Serb dominated districts and the refusal to uphold an agreed upon Community of Serb Municipalities to allow a degree of autonomy in Serb-dominated districts.
This last point has been a point of contention in recent talks to “normalize” relations between the two countries, with Serbia noting that it was agreed upon in 2013, but never enacted, and adding that this was key to any talks on normalization. Kurti, however, was noted by the EU as having rejected the creation of a CSM, stating that this could be addressed once Serbia recognized the country as an independent state.
Both Serbia and Albania have declared days of morning. Vucic also stated to the public 27.9.2023 that it was clear that whoever killed the Kosovo police officer must be prosecuted, and that Radoicic was in Serbia, but that he was not wounded.
He added that Serbian investigators would question Radoicic. He also said that Russia has a solid understanding of Serbia’s current position.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic photo by European Commission, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.