Serbia and Kosovo are again in crisis, following a gun battle Sunday that saw four ethnic Serbs killed, as well as one ethnic-Albanian Kosovo policeman dead and another wounded
Reportedly, some 30 ethnic Serbs ambushed Kosovo police, killing one officer and wounding another and then fled to a local monastery in Banjska, which also housed Serbian pilgrims from Novi Sad.
A series of gun battles followed, which immediately resulted in three Serbs killed and a number arrested, but it was unclear as to whether all assailants—who were noted to have been heavily armed—were arrested or surrendered. It appeared later that two civilians and one of the original attackers was arrested. Kosovo police also closed nearby border crossings. However on Monday, Kosovo authorities confirmed six arrests and stated that three assailants had been killed, but Monday night, Sept. 25, a fourth assailant was found dead approximately 1.5 kilometers from the monastery in close proximity to a vehicle full of weapons.
The attack and siege threw yet another wrench into on-again, off-again negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo ostensibly to normalize relations and recognize Kosovo as an independent state—a status much wanted by both the EU and the US.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic addressed the nation, following the violence, condemning the killing of the police officer, but also stating that Serbs in Kosovo have had “enough of [Prime Minister Albin] Kurti’s terror.”
He added that such incidents like this were bound to happen. However, he denied Kurti’s accusations that the armed Serbs were “sent” or organized by Vucic and said that the killing of the Kosovo police officer could not be justified.
Vucic also countered Kurti’s accusations, stating that Kurti wants Serbian relations with NATO to deteriorate.
On Monday, Vucic also mentioned that he was grateful to Russia for seeing the Serbian side of the conflict, and Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “it’s no secret that provocation directed at the Serbs is being organized very frequently,” according to the Serbian N1 news site.
Meanwhile, European Union Special Representative for Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak met with key EU and US advisors and said in a tweet: “Intense and very substantial consultations with Chief diplomatic advisers [Advisor to the French President Emmanuel] Bonne, [Foreign Policy and Security Advisor to the German Chancellor Jens] Plotner, [Advisor to the Prime Minister of Italy Francesco] Talo and [US Advisor on Normalization Gabriel] Escobar.
“We discussed the next steps in the implementation of the Agreement on the Path to Normalisation and the situation in the north of Kosovo. Grateful for the full support.”
Photo of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic by Council.gov.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons