The tensions between Kosovo and Serbia are flaring up once again, and the US has noted that there is an “unprecedented” build up of Serbian armor and infantry on their border with Kosovo. The US has called for de-escalation while NATO has continued to provide peacekeepers.
Kosovo and Serbia share a tumultuous history, but there are some facts to get readers up to speed:
- Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo fought a war with Serbia in 1998
- NATO intervened on behalf of Albanian Kosovars
- Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008
- Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty
- NATO peacekeepers have maintained a fragile status quo ever since
The bottom line up front is that for the Serbian minority within Kosovo, they identify as displaced part of Serbia (due in part to the intervention of foreign powers). Because of this the ethnic dispute has never settled, and Serbia has used those tensions to incite instability in Kosovo.
Back in June 2023, violent protests erupted in Northern Kosovo due to those very tensions. Specifically, due to the appointment of Albanian mayors in an ethnically Serbian region (after the Serbian politicians resigned in protest). You can read about it here:
Violence Continues in the Balkans
Officials from countries like the United States, Germany, and France are urging Kosovo and Serbia to come to a peaceful…
And now, after the killing of a Kosovar police officer and a gunfight at a monastery on September 24, the tensions have risen higher than they have since the chaos of the 1990s.
Reports on the tensions state that a gunfight broke out in the northern village of Banjska after an ambush was sprung between police and dozens of Serbian men. Allegedly, three Serians were killed, one was arrested. Following a raid in the region, police found weapons, ammunition, and military garb in a private residence.
The Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti addressed the events as a “terror attack” and called the Serbian militants “criminal gangs.” Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said that Serbia would not support such acts and could not have had involvement. He also called the killing of one of the attackers an execution.
What is perhaps even more odd, is that Milan Radoicic, a Serbian politician, stated he prepared logistics for the fighters and was involved in the gunfight. He denies that the Serbian government had any role, however.
Despite denying any compliance, the Serbian Defense Minister Milos Vucevic stated that the Serbian Army was ordered “to be on the highest level of combat readiness…” in accordance to an “operational plan.” Much like he rhetoric used by Putin to justify his “special military operation” in Ukraine, Serbia has stated these acts are “…to protect the Serbian people in Kosovo.”