Kosovo government offices targeted as tensions rise with Serbia

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PRISTINA – A public building in Kosovo was set on fire and another was hit by grenades that did not explode in what government officials described on Saturday as criminal acts linked to ethnic Serbs protesting a symbolic move on the plaques registration.

Serbian media quoted Zubin Potok fire chief Sasa Bozovic as saying that a fire that broke out overnight in the city’s municipal building engulfed two offices.

Kosovo’s interior ministry said the fire burned down a vehicle registration office. This was committed “by suspects in a criminal act with terrorist elements,” Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla wrote on Facebook.

Ethnic Kosovo Serbs have blocked the border between Kosovo and Serbia with trucks since Monday, angry that Kosovo has sent special police to match Serbia in a license plate move that exacerbates tensions in the Balkans . Kosovo now removes license plates from cars entering the country from Serbia, as Serbia does with plates from Kosovo. They both force the drivers to buy temporary plates.

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Serbia does not recognize its former province of Kosovo as a separate nation and regards their mutual border only as a temporary border.

In Zvecan, a town 10 miles away, two hand grenades were thrown at a public office but did not explode, said Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who was calling a meeting of the country’s National Security Council on Saturday.

Kurti accused the Serbian government of “inciting and supporting” such behavior and of “exploiting the citizens of Kosovo to provoke a serious international conflict”.

Serbia has placed its troops in areas near Kosovo on higher alert. State television RTS reported on Saturday that Serbian military planes had flown over the border area twice during the day, eliciting cheers from Serbian protesters.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called Kosovo’s recent license plate transfer a “criminal act”, and made the withdrawal of all Kosovo special police a condition of EU negotiations to resolve the dispute. .

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But after the grenades and the fire, the Kosovo government did not appear ready on Saturday to withdraw the special police.

“These criminal acts best illustrate what would have happened with the Jarinje and Brnjak border posts unless special forces were sent there to guarantee public order and security,” Svecla wrote.

The European Union and the United States urged Kosovo and Serbia to immediately show restraint and refrain from any unilateral action.

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani called on the world “not to ignore what is clearly (to be) seen – a Russian-Serbian tendency to harm the European Union and NATO” by increasing tensions in the Balkans.

“It is time for the international community, and first and foremost the member states of the EU and NATO, to see such a danger and prevent the Vucic regime from achieving its goal of creating the ‘Serbian world’,” he said. she wrote on Facebook, while in New York at the United Nations General Assembly.

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A bloody 1998-1999 crackdown by Serbian troops against Kosovo Albanian separatists ended after NATO intervention and Kosovo declared independence in 2008. It was recognized by the United States and other Western countries, but not by Serbia and its allies Russia and China.

Thousands of NATO-led peacekeepers, including US troops, remain deployed in Kosovo, trying to avoid lingering ethnic tensions between the Kosovo Albanian majority and the Kosovo Serb minority.

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Llazar Semini reported from Tirana, Albania; Jovana Gec from Belgrade, Serbia.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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