| 19 April 2024, Friday |

Serbian security forces detain three Kosovo police officers, Kosovo official says

Serbian authorities seized three Kosovo police officers on Wednesday, although officials from Kosovo and Serbia cited conflicting locations for the arrests, accusing each other of unlawfully crossing the border.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti has asked that the three officers be released. He said they were apprehended 300 meters inside Kosovan territory, close the Serbian border.

“The entry of Serbian forces into Kosovo territory is an act of aggression aimed at escalation and destabilization,” Kurti posted on Facebook.

But Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said the three were arrested “as far as 1.8 kilometers (1 mile)” inside Serbian territory near the village of Gnjilica. He also accused Kurti of inciting conflicts.

“We are at the crossroads whether we will have peace or not … and there’s one man in the Balkans who wants to incite conflicts at any cost and that is Albin Kurti,” Vucic said in a live TV broadcast.

He rejected Kurti’s accusation that the Serbian police entered Kosovo, saying: “They did not even set a foot there.”

Vucic said Belgrade was willing to submit all the evidence and accept an international inquiry into the arrests and that it could relocate some of its military currently stationed around five km (3.1 miles) away from the boundary to garrisons inside Serbia to defuse tensions.

“It will be difficult to return to normalcy,” he said.

Kosovo banned all vehicles with Serbia’s licence plates from entering its territory in response to the arrests, an interior ministry official told Reuters at mid-evening on Wednesday.

The detentions may further fuel tensions in the predominantly Serb northern part in Kosovo which borders Serbia and which has seen violence in recent weeks.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nearly a decade after an uprising by the 90% ethnic Albanian majority against repressive Serbian rule.

In 1999, a NATO bombing campaign drove Serbian security forces out of Kosovo but Belgrade continues to regard it as a southern province.

Violence flared last month when 30 peacekeepers and 52 Serbs were injured in clashes in four predominantly Serb municipalities in northern Kosovo just outside Serbia.

It erupted after Serbs rallied against ethnic Albanian mayors who moved into their offices following a local vote in which turnout was just 3.5%. Serbs in the area boycotted the election.

  • Reuters