On the afternoon of May 26, the Serbian army was put on full alert and advanced to the administrative border with Kosovo (partially recognized as independent by a number of Western countries). Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić gave the order to do so against the backdrop of actions by Kosovo security forces in Serb-populated areas of Kosovo. Serbian Defense Minister Milos Vucevic warned of the threat of a "complete collapse of the dialogue" between Belgrade and Pristina. About it informs Serbian TV channel RTS.
The escalation in Kosovo began before a large-scale rally in Belgrade, at which Vucic is supposed to step down from the ruling party and announce a number of some important government decisions.
On May 25, Kosovo's Serb municipalities sworn in the heads of local governments elected in Pristina's formal elections in April. The Serbian population of these areas ignored the elections.
Kosovo Serbs protested in the municipalities of Zvencan, Leposavich and Zubin Potok, began to build barricades and tried to barricade themselves in the administrative buildings of the communities. In response, the Kosovo Albanian police special forces, ROSU, arrived. The security forces used stun grenades and tear gas, but the Serbs managed to set fire to a police car. At least 10 people were injured, the Kosovska Mitrovica hospital said.
KFOR peacekeepers were introduced into Kosovska Mitrovica itself, initially not interfering in the situation. With the support of the Kosovo police and their armored cars, the Albanian chairman of the community entered the administration building of the Leposavić municipality, and the Kosovo flag was hoisted on the roof. The Kosovo security forces also broke into the administration buildings in Zvecan and Zubin Potok.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called on Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti to immediately end violent measures in northern Kosovo and refocus on EU-brokered dialogue. Twitter.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, OSCE Chairman Bujar Osmani also called for a détente and de-escalation. And the commander of KFOR, Angelo Ristuka, met with Kurti on the evening of May 26.
At the same time, in Belgrade, in front of the building of the Serbian parliament (assembly), a rally began in support of Vučić, who promised to step down from the post of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party. The President has previously announced his desire to create this summer a broad supra-party structure - the "People's Movement for Serbia". The rally was attended by Foreign Minister of neighboring Hungary Peter Szijjarto and President of the Republika Srpska (part of Bosnia and Herzegovina) Milorad Dodik.
The rally in support of Vučić came after opposition rallies calling for the resignation of Interior Minister Bratislav Gašić and the president himself after two mass shootings with casualties in early May. Vučić refused to meet the demands of the opposition. “As long as I am alive, I will not sign this. The government will be elected in the elections and by the will of the people,” the President stressed.
In terms of Kosovo politics, little has changed, but the escalation is most likely related to recent protests in Serbia and the rally announced by Vučić, which is intended to demonstrate that the president has support, said Anastasia Maleshevich, a researcher at the IMI MGIMO. Apparently, the authorities in Pristina are seizing the moment to put additional pressure on Belgrade, she believes.
The situation with the actions of Pristina is not new - they are trying again to seize final control over the Serbian municipalities of Kosovo by forceful pressure contrary to attempts at agreements, political scientist, founder of the Balkanist project Oleg Bondarenko believes. In addition, despite public protests from the United States over the escalation of violence, in reality, Kurti could not act without the West's go-ahead.
Bondarenko believes that the current situation is an instrument of external pressure on Vucic, coupled with pressure from within Serbia through the opposition. This is a consequence of the fact that the Serbian leader refuses to go completely in line with US and EU policy, including on the issue of anti-Russian sanctions, Bondarenko concludes.