Rumors Of Serbia-Kosovo Clashes Send Border Tensions Soaring, President Addresses Nation
On Sunday evening (local time) there were unverified reports of armed clashes between Serbs and Kosovars along the border between the two countries. Kosovo, which is seen by Serbia as part of its own historic heartland - unilaterally declared itself independent in 2008 - and was quickly recognized as a "country" by the United States under the Bush administration. The border has been tense and seen periodic outbreaks of violence ever since.
And now, international reports say "Kosovo Police announced on Sunday evening that they had closed the Bernjak and Jarinje border crossings to traffic due to roadblocks set up on these roads. The roadblocks were reportedly set up by local Serbs." This was followed by rumors of gunfire exchanged between the two sides, with air raid sirens observed blaring in Mitrovica, Kosovo.
#Kosovo BREAKING: air-raid sirens have been going off for the past two hours in the town of #Mitrovica.— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) July 31, 2022
There are reports of gunfire on the border with #Serbia 🇷🇸, sparking rumors of an armed skirmish between the two sides. pic.twitter.com/MWs7cNKCeM
There has long been a minority persecuted community of ethnic Serbs still living in their homes within the West-backed boundaries of Kosovo since the 1990's Yugoslav Wars.
Tensions began spiraling this weekend what Serbia sees as fresh measures by Kosovo to persecute the Serb minority:
The sirens come as Kosovo officials prepared to require Serbians visiting Kosovo to replace their Serbian passports with a temporary ID while in the country and to require Serbian license plates in the country to be replaced with Kosovar license plates.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in a televised address on Sunday urged for peace, but also suggested the Kosovars could be preparing a purge of the Serb minority in the region...
#Serbia/n President @avucic on the situation w/ #Kosovo: All I can say is that we will ask for peace and ask for peace, but I will tell you right away: there'll be no surrender & Serbia will win.If they try to start persecuting Serbs, bullying Serbs,killing Serbs,Serbia will win! pic.twitter.com/hcSAiw429I— Maxim A. Suchkov (@m_suchkov) July 31, 2022
President Vucic in his talk warned against "provocations" out of Pristina, according to a Russian media translation of his words:
"The atmosphere has been heated up, and the Serbs will not suffer any more atrocities," Vucic said in Belgrade on Sunday.
"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."
The message to the nation followed the Saturday provocative remarks of Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic who said to reporters that "the Albanian side in Kosovo and Metohija is literally preparing to raise hell for Serbs."
Serbian leadership is now warning that Kosovars will pay a "high price" if Serbians are attacked.
#BREAKING #Serbia|n President #Vucic:— EHA News (@eha_news) July 31, 2022
▪️"Kosovan Serbs won't allow persecution anymore."
▪️"If someone in #Kosovo attempts to harm Serbs, it will have a high price."
▪️"Kosovo plans to attack the north of Serbia at midnight." pic.twitter.com/jEXn8UEgz0
Serbia's defense ministry later in the day tried to combat rumors of army involvement at this point, in another appeal for calm:
SERBIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE STATEMENT pic.twitter.com/DrJjkUKrSH— AZ 🛰🌏🌍🌎 (@AZmilitary1) July 31, 2022
Russia, which has long backed Serbia and condemned the 1999 US-NATO attack and intervention in the country, is reported to be keeping a close eye on the tensions.
Into the night hours, there continue to be unverified reports that Serbia is sending security forces en masse to the border...
It appears to be the largest Kosovo police convoy to date. Up to 1,000 security forces have been deployed to the border. pic.twitter.com/v82pRynMAq— 301🇦🇲 (@301arm) July 31, 2022
The border town of Kosovska Mitrovica in Kosovo is completely empty. pic.twitter.com/dBiWBRJuKA— 301🇦🇲 (@301arm) July 31, 2022
Another (or shall we say original) NATO-Russia 'fault line'...
Serbian ruling party MP: "Serbia will have no choice but to begin the de-Nazification of the Balkans."— Admirim (@admirim) July 31, 2022
This is not somehow vaguely similar to Putin's playbook, it's exactly the same playbook. pic.twitter.com/Mfws16SHu1
At this point there have been no confirmed major disruptions in commercial air traffic patterns over the region, however, as rumors that the two sides are on a 'war-footing' continue to persist.