Serb barricades hail ethnic Albanian special forces as Belgrade warns breakaway province against crackdown
Church bells and air raid sirens sounded in parts of Kosovo inhabited by ethnic Serbs on Sunday, as heavily armed special police responding to the ethnic Albanian government in Pristina showed up at administrative checkpoints with Serbia. In Belgrade, President Aleksandar Vucic said that Serbia wanted peace, but would not allow the persecution of its citizens.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti cited a 2011 agreement with Belgrade to declare all Serbian documents and license plates invalid as of August 1, and announced an operation to be applied “law and justiceto all territories claimed by his government. The province of Serbia, occupied by NATO in 1999, declared independence in 2008 with the support of the United States – but was not recognized by Belgrade.
Special police blocked the main administrative crossing in Jarinje. Local Serb residents responded by erecting their own barricades, as they had done in 2011. According to reports, so far unconfirmed, at least one Serb was shot and injured.
The Serbian army was put on alert, but the Defense Ministry in Belgrade issued a statement on Sunday that no troops had crossed the administrative line, saying rumors that they had clashed with police in ethnic Albanians were “disinformationbroadcast on behalf of Pristina.
Addressing the nation on Sunday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Kosovar authorities were selectively applying provisions of old agreements, which they themselves had never respected. He also compared the planned crackdown on documents and license plates to Croatia’s 1995 military operation that led to the mass exodus of Serbs.
“Serbs will suffer no more atrocitiesVucic said. He asked the local Serbs “do not fall into provocationsand the Albanians tocome to their senses“, while imploring the Western donors of Pristina”pay some heed to international law and the reality on the ground and not allow their wards to cause conflict.”
“We don’t want conflict and we don’t want war. We will pray for peace and seek peace, but let me tell you right now: there will be no surrender, and Serbia will win. If they dare to start persecuting, harassing and killing Serbs, Serbia will winVucic said.
Another barricade was erected in Kosovska Mitrovica, on the bridge between the Albanian-dominated south side of the city and the Serb-inhabited north. Local media report that several hundred ethnic Albanians had gathered on the south side, some of them armed. The sighting raised the specter of the March 2004 pogrom, when some 50,000 Albanians burned down dozens of Serb villages, churches and monasteries across the province. The rampage lasted several days before NATO peacekeepers responded to stop it.
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