Kosovo officials deny crackdown on ethnic Serbs, accuse Belgrade of undermining their progressive democracy
Kosovo accused Serbia on Sunday of fomenting unrest and trying to undermine the “rule of law” in the breakaway province. Prime Minister Albin Kurti claimed the local Serbs had opened fire on Kosovo police, while the president’s cabinet said Belgrade was acting on behalf of Russia.
In a video message on Sunday afternoon, Kurti claimed that “illegal Serbian structures in the north started blocking roads and firing guns” at Pristina’s special police, even before they were deployed to the administrative line with Serbia. Kurti said last week that starting August 1, his government will not allow anyone with Serbian license plates or documents to cross into or out of the province, which has claimed to be an independent state since 2008.
“The Government of the Republic of Kosovo is democratic and progressive, which loves, respects and implements the law and constitutionalism, peace and security, for all citizens without distinction and for our entire common country,” Kurti said.
Kosovo is facing “Serbian national-chauvinism” and “misinformation” from Belgrade, he added, urging his citizens to be vigilant.
Kurti blamed Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and his commissioner for Kosovo Petar Petkovic for the “aggressive actions” and “threats” from Belgrade.
Meanwhile, the chief of staff of President Vjosa Osmani went on Twitter to accuse Serbia of playing a “spoiler role” in Europe on behalf of Russia. Blerim Vela accused Vucic of “a textbook repetition of Putin’s playbook“ – referring to NATO’s claims about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s behavior in Ukraine – by spreading fear and lies, claiming the Serbs were being persecuted and “ramping up militaristic rhetoric.”
Vela also claimed that Kosovo Serbs have set up barricades on Vucic’s “direct orders” and called it a “blatant attempt to undermine rule of law.”
Earlier on Sunday, Vucic gave an address to the nation, blaming the breakaway province for violating the human rights of local Serbs, who “will not suffer any more atrocities.”
“My plea to everyone is to try to keep the peace at almost any cost. I am asking the Albanians to come to their senses, the Serbs not to fall for provocations, but I am also asking the representatives of powerful and large countries, which have recognized the so-called independence of Kosovo, to pay a little attention to international law and reality on the ground and not to allow their wards to cause conflict,” he said.
NATO occupied Kosovo in 1999, after a 78-day air war against what was then Yugoslavia. The province declared independence in 2008, with Western support. While the US and most of its allies have recognized it, Serbia, Russia, China and the UN in general have not.