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Kosovo-Serbian tensions rise after protestors block roads


On Saturday, police and Kosovo Serbs fired on each other after tensions in northern Kosovo have risen. Tensions caused explosions and an attack on a police patrol. Police have said hundreds of Serbs have erected barricades near the two main border crossings, which has significantly blocked traffic.

Demonstrators have reported to AFP that the current protest erupted after a former police officer, who is ethnically Serbian, was arrested.

Police have said he was arrested for attacking police officers, as well as election officials and election commission offices.

Xhelal Sveçla, Kosovo’s interior minister, has said the former police officer was one of two suspects who have been arrested for attacking officers in the last few days

Local media outlets have reported that protestors have been attempting to stop the arrested former officer from being transferred to Kosovo’s capital city, Pristina.

Last month, Serbian officials in northern Kosovo quit their jobs to protest the country’s long-running licence plate row.

It included mayors from local towns, judges and around 600 police officers.

In November, Kosovo’s Government announced that around 10,000 Kosovan Serbs needed to replace their license plates with official Kosovo plates by April, and if they did not they could face fines and road bans.

Both Kosovo and Serbia have blamed each other for the latest rise in tensions, with the underlying source of tension being Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008.

The country is a majority Albanian, with Serbs being a minority.

However, Serbia has continued to encourage their loyalty.

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Blerim Vela, Kosovo’s presidential chief of staff, said on Twitter: “Serbia has instructed its illegal structures to set up barricades in the north Kosovo. Belgrade bears the full responsibility for any escalation.”

It has been reported that the protests were announced in several northern cities by setting off emergency sirens and there have also been reports of gunshots heard in different locations in northern Kosovo.

Police have said they have come under fire in several locations near a lake on the Serbia border, but there have been no reports of injuries yet.

In a statement, the police said: “Police units, in self-defence, were forced to respond with firearms to the criminals who were repulsed and run in unknown directions.”

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The current conflict has led to Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani postponing the local elections, which were meant to take place on December 18, until April 23.

However, the main pro-Serb political party has said it will boycott the elections, and shootings were heard earlier this week when election authorities visited towns in northern Kosovo in preparation for election day.

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic is now seeking approval from NATO peacekeepers to send Serbian military forces to northern Kosovo.

In a news conference in Belgrade, President Vucic said: “We will request from the KFOR commander to ensure the deployment of army and police personnel of the Republic of Serbia to the territory of Kosovo and Metohija.”

He added that he had “no illusions” that the request would be accepted, but a spokesperson for Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti has said it would be an “act of aggression” with the indication of “Serbia’s tendencies to destabilise the region”.



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