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“If they dare to kill Serbs, Serbia will win.” A new aggravation of the conflict in Kosovo – with road closures and barricades. The main thing

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Peacekeepers in Kosovska Mitrovica. July 31, 2022

In northern Kosovo, where the majority of Serbs live, the situation has escalated due to plans by the Kosovo authorities to issue temporary documents to those entering from Serbia, and start the process of replacing Serbian license plates with Kosovo ones. To Kosovo called these measures are “mirror-like”, since Serbia, not recognizing Kosovo statehood, issues temporary documents to those entering with Kosovo identity cards.

The changes were to come into effect on 1 August. On July 31, local residents began to block the main roads in the region and build barricades. They blocked access to two main checkpoints located in the settlements of Yarin and Brnjak. In the city of Kosovska Mitrovica, sirens sounded for three hours, writes Reuters.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić stated that the situation for the Kosovo Serbs is “very difficult” and that in the event of conflict, “Serbia will win”. “We have never been in a more difficult situation than today. The Pristina regime is trying to use the situation in the world, the new Zelensky in the face [премьер-министра Косово] Albina Kurti announces the fight against hegemonism, – quoted his TASS on the afternoon of July 31.

Vucic declaredthat the Kosovo authorities are preparing to start “actions to ban Serbian documents” at midnight, for which they sent their special forces to the checkpoint in advance. Some Russian media interpreted the words of the president in their own way and published headlines like “Vučić Says Kosovo Army Plans to Attack Northern Serbia at Midnight”.

President of Serbia emphasized, that he wants to “keep the peace at any cost”, but stated that “if they dare to start persecuting Serbs, killing Serbs, Serbia will win.” On the side of Serbia spoke Russian Foreign Ministry, calling the actions of Pristina “another step towards the expulsion of the Serbian population from Kosovo.” “We call on Pristina and the US and EU behind it to stop provocations and respect the rights of Serbs in Kosovo,” the ministry said.

In the evening, videos with the sounds of shooting were circulating on social networks. The Kosovo Police, which officially closed both checkpoints, late on the evening of 31 July statedthat the shooting was carried out, including in the direction of the police, but “fortunately, no one was hurt.”

In Kosovska Mitrovica, on the bridge across the Ibar River, which separates the Serbian and Albanian districts of the city, military personnel from the KFOR peacekeeping force under the auspices of NATO appeared in the evening. Mission released an official statement that peacekeepers are monitoring a “tense” situation and are ready to intervene if stability is threatened.

Kosovo authorities at night declaredthat postpone innovation for a month – subject to the removal of barricades. This, according to Reuters, was preceded by Pristina’s consultations with the European Union and the United States; US Ambassador to Kosovo Jeffrey Hovenier declaredthat it was he who asked for the measures to be postponed because there was “a lot of false information and misunderstanding” around them. EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell declaredthat welcomes the decision and expects the barricades to be “immediately” removed.

On the morning of August 1, the Serbian state media RTS reportedthat the barricades remain in place, traffic through the Jarine and Brnjak checkpoints is still closed, and people with Serbian documents are given temporary documents at the working checkpoint in Merdar.

Similar aggravation due to license plates happened autumn 2021. Then the Kosovo police forced the owners of cars with Serbian numbers to change them; local Serbs began to block the roads. How wrote then Deutsche Welle, the Kosovo authorities also called their actions mirrored, since Serbia demands to change the Kosovo car numbers on its territory. After several days of confrontation, the parties agreed that drivers from both sides would stick the symbols of their country on the license plate when entering another country. The representatives of Belgrade and Pristina had to find a permanent solution within six months, but this Did not happen.

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