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Serbs install more roadblocks as tensions rise in Kosovo.political news

Kosovo is demanding the removal of barriers erected by Serb protesters while the Serbs put their forces on high alert.

Local Serbs built more roadblocks in northern Kosovo, defying calls to remove previously erected barriers the day after Serbia put its troops in high-level combat readiness near the border. rice field.

A new barrier formed of loaded trucks was installed in the town of Mitrovica early Tuesday. The town is divided between Kosovar Serbs and Albanians, who are the majority in all of Kosovo.

It is the first time Serbs have blocked a street in one of the main towns since the crisis erupted in the region in early December. Until now, the road leading to the border between Kosovo and Serbia was barricaded.

The development came after President Aleksandr Vučić ordered Serbian military and police on Monday to be on high alert in response to the latest events in the region.

Vucic prepares to forcibly remove some roadblocks that the Serbs began putting up 18 days ago as Pristina “attacked” ethnic Serb areas in northern Kosovo to protest the arrest of a former Kosovar Serb policeman. claimed to be doing

Kosovar police officers patrol the northern area of ​​the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo
Kosovar police officers patrol area north of Mitrovica [File: Florion Goga/Reuters]

The Kosovar government has yet to react to Vucic’s allegations, but has previously accused the Serbian leader of trying to cause trouble and an incident that could serve as a pretext for an armed intervention in Serbia’s former provinces. doing.

Meanwhile, Pristina has called on the NATO-led peacekeepers (Kosovar Forces, or KFOR) stationed in the country to remove the barricades put up by the Serbs, saying that if the KFOR does not act, their own forces will do so. I hinted that I would.

About 4,000 NATO-led peacekeepers have been stationed in Kosovo since the 1999 war that ended when Belgrade lost control of the territory.

Rising tensions in the Balkans

The latest riots first erupted on December 10, after Serbs erected several barricades and arrested a former Serb policeman on charges of assaulting a police officer on duty at a previous protest. It was during a shootout with the police.

The Serbs are demanding the release of the arrested officers and making other demands before removing the barricades.

This follows on from previous troubles over car license plate issues. For years, Kosovo has been asking its northern Serbs to replace their Serbian vehicle license plates with those issued by Pristina. This is part of the government’s desire to assert its authority over Kosovo’s territory.

Serb mayors of northern municipalities, local judges and about 600 police officers after the Kosovar government finally decided last month that Serb-issued license plates must be replaced with Pristina-issued license plates. resigned in protest.

A Serbian police officer takes off his uniform in the town of Zvejan, Kosovo.
A Serbian police officer takes off his uniform in the town of Zvekan [File: Bojan Slavkovic/AP]

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but remains home to the Belgrade-backed Serb minority in the north.

The Declaration of Independence came ten years after a war between Albanian fighters and the Serbian army that killed 13,000 people, mostly Albanians.

The war ended with NATO intervention to drive Serbian forces out of today’s Kosovo.

Serbia, backed by allies Russia and China, does not recognize the former state’s statehood, but most Western countries, including the United States, do.

The approximately 50,000 Serbs living there refuse to recognize Pristina’s authority and still consider themselves part of Serbia.

Belgrade accuses Pristina of trampling on the rights of minority Serbs.

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