A full-scale conflict is brewing on the border between Serbia and the partially recognized Republic of Kosovo. Explosions and shots sounded here last weekend. Belgrade intends to deploy a thousand security officials to the region. And Pristina, backed by the West, is raising the stakes. About the situation and prospects – in the material RIA Novosti.
Origins of the problem
In August, Pristina demanded that Kosovo Serbs re-register their cars and obtain local license plates under threat of fines. With international mediation, this was postponed several times.
Belgrade is now outraged by the detention of former Kosovo policeman Dejan Pantic. Serb by nationality, he resigned from the service in November – just because of Pristina’s plans to fine for Serbian license plates.
On December 10, Kosovo’s security services arrested Pantic on suspicion of terrorism: he allegedly participated in attacks on police stations and the election commission. They tried to deliver him to the capital of the republic. In response, the Serbs, who live mainly in the north, began to build barricades, blocking the highways leading to Pristina with trucks. The Kosovo police say the officers were shot at.
The reaction of the parties
Prime Minister Albin Kurti asked the NATO military from KFOR (Kosovo Force) to demolish the barricades and unblock the roads, and expressed his readiness to do it on his own.
A stun grenade flew into the building of the EULEX (European Union Rule of Law Mission). EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said that this was unacceptable and that the barricades “should be dismantled immediately.”
Locals also reported other explosions and gunshots. Aleksandar Vucic called an emergency meeting of the Serbian Security Council. “Today is the most difficult day since I became president. I urge you not to succumb to provocations,” he said after the meeting.
The head of the office for Kosovo and Metohija under the Serbian government, Petar Petkovic, warned that Belgrade would request an international mission under the auspices of NATO about the possibility of deploying its security forces in the Kosovo north.
According to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, this is permissible. Serbia has the right to send up to a thousand military personnel, police officers and customs officers to the region.
As Oleg Bondarenko, director of the Progressive Policy Foundation and founder of the Balkanist.ru project, noted in an interview with RIA Novosti, the fact that Petkovich referred to resolution 1244 is a sign of an unprecedented aggravation of the situation. Previously, Belgrade did not resort to such arguments. At the same time, Serbia’s application to an international mission is a gesture of goodwill, because it is not necessary to coordinate such a thing.
“The last thing Vucic would like is a military confrontation,” the expert stressed. “After the deployment of troops and police to Kosovo, clashes are likely not only with the military of Pristina, but also with KFOR, that is, NATO.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Burbock, on the contrary, regarded Petkovic’s statement as aggressive. Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, in turn, called the position of Germany absurd, stressing that Belgrade only acts within the rights granted by the UN. According to her, the crisis is the result of the “inaction” of the EU.
The official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, commented on the correspondence dispute between Burbock and Brnabic with irony. “Well, why ‘inaction’? This is exactly the situation that the European Union, in fact, has been modeling for years,” she responded.
Failure of agreements
Kurti is really actively playing the European Union card. Kosovo will apply to the EU any day now.
Vucic considers this a violation of the 2020 Washington Accords. Then Pristina pledged not to join any international structures.
“Kosovo is not a European state. We will continue to fight,” he said. “Pristina has completely trampled on the Washington agreements.”
According to Bondarenko, Kurti has no chance of success: “At least five EU countries are against the accession of Pristina – Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Slovakia and Romania. Each has its own territorial problems,” potential Kosovo “. The Spaniards have Catalonia, the Romanians “Transylvania, the Slovaks have lands disputed by the Hungarians.”
But Kosovo’s First Deputy Prime Minister Besnik Bislimi is optimistic. “Those who did not recognize our independence will not create problems,” he is sure. “Entry is a long-term process, we will have time to settle everything.”
At the same time, Pristina’s bid will untie Belgrade’s hands. Serbia, in exchange for not joining Kosovo, promised not to require third countries to withdraw recognition of the independence of the republic. “Pristina violates the agreement, so Belgrade will continue the recall campaign. And after all, many are not connected with Kosovo by close relations, so there are chances,” the expert believes.
Who provokes and who restrains the conflict
But in general, the situation is not in favor of the Serbs. The West, which mimicked peace efforts in the fall, now openly supports Kosovo. Evidence of this is the statements of Burbock, who topped the rating of German politicians in September.
The US will not be left out either. Formally calling both Belgrade and Pristina for a settlement, the Americans are demanding: “Those who set up illegal checkpoints must immediately dismantle them. We expect an end to threats and intimidation.”
“The whole situation, absolutely everything – and the attitude of Pristina towards the Serbs in Kosovo – naturally, on a smaller scale, resembles what happened and is happening in Ukraine. The same schemes, the same behavior of the West,” the Russian ambassador emphasized on television. Serbia Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko.
According to Oleg Bondarenko, the West is provoking the Serbs in many respects because of Ukraine.
“In the event of an escalation, Russia will not help the Serbs militarily in any way,” the expert says. “Even if the plane with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov could not fly to Belgrade (Bulgaria, Montenegro and North Macedonia did not let the plane through in June. — Approx. ed.), then no weapons can be delivered. The West uses this.”
The Serbian army’s own resources will not be enough to fight the Kosovo military, and even more so the NATO forces. Ther-efore, Vucic is the only one who is truly interested in o-vercoming the crisis, inflated by Kurti with the connivance and even instigation of foreign partners.