Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday announced he put the Serbian army on a "higher state of alert" due to clashes between ethnic Serbs and Kosovar police in northern Kosovo. The border region has been restive for months over what Belgrade sees as yet more anti-Serb policies.
"An urgent movement (of troops) to the Kosovo border has been ordered," Serbia's defence minister Milos Vucevic said in a national broadcast. "It is clear that the terror against the Serb community in Kosovo is happening."
Serbian leadership is also demanding that NATO peacekeeping forces immediately protect the Serbian community from Kosovo police, who have responded by saying they must crackdown on rioting and anti-police violence.
This latest flare-up in violence is over boycotted elections. Kosovo's Serb minority protested municipal elections in the north. They make up about 5% of the total population of 1.8 million. The Serbs have been demanding an association of Serbian municipalities previously promised by the local government.
Ethnic Albanians have rejected to proposal out of fears it could give rise to a pro-Serbian statelet which could then break away to be absorbed back into Serbia.
⚡️Shots of replacing the Serbian flag with the “Republic of Kosovo” on the Zubin Potok municipality building— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) May 26, 2023
Earlier, the building was seized by armed members of the "Kosovo police" pic.twitter.com/OVDJK3ImIF
Serbs staying out of the election, a boycott which also had the backing of the Serbian government, resulted in ethnic Albanian mayors moving in. The new clashes were sparked when Kosovo police tried to install the new mayors and Serbs blocked access to the buildings.
According to an update on the situation in the BBC, "Ten people were injured in the violence after residents gathered outside state buildings in the Serb majority border town of Zvecan." Further, "Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters, and gunshots and explosions could be heard in videos posted online."
At least five police were reported injured, and multiple vehicles were damaged and set on fire.
On the day of the govt-sponsored rally in Belgrade, Serbia’s president @AVucic raises the combat readiness of the Serbian Army as clashes between Kosovo Serbs & @Kosovo_Police erupt in Zvecan, one of the Serb-majority municipalities in the north of Kosovo. pic.twitter.com/BqSYS70Nao— Jakub Bielamowicz (@KubaBielamowicz) May 26, 2023
But the Biden administration issued a rare rebuke of Kosovo, which the US was largely responsible for recognizing as a "nation" under the Bush administration:
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticised the use of force by Kosovan government, saying that it had taken action against the advice of the US and EU allies.
Mr Blinken said the move had "sharply and unnecessarily escalated tensions in the region" and had served to undermine efforts to "normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia".
Kosovan officials conformed that additional police and security services were sent to the contested regions "to assist mayors of the northern communes of Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok to exert their right of work at the official objects."
But ethnic Albanian officials have blamed Serbia, saying it "bears full responsibility" - as quoted in regional reports.