Serbia Puts Troops On 'Full Combat Readiness' As Main Kosovo Border Crossing Shut

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Dec 28, 2022 - 03:35 PM

Serbian officials announced this week that the national army has been put on the highest possible level of alert as border tensions with breakaway Kosovo have soared to boiling point, and after roadblocks were set up by the Serbian minority living within Kosovo, which they don't recognize as a legitimate state.

Following weeks of at times tit-for-tat clashes between Serbian protesters and Kosovo police, Serbia said Monday its forces have been put on a "full state of combat readiness" - after President Aleksandar Vučić ordered that "all measures be taken to protect the Serbian people in Kosovo."

Serbian Presidential Press Service/AP: Defense Minister Milos Vucevic (center) with Serbian army chief of staff Milan Mojsilovic (center left) in southern Serbia near the Kosovo border on December 26, 2022.

"Serbia’s president … ordered the Serbian army to be on the highest level of combat readiness, that is to the level of the use of armed force," Serbia’s Defense Minister Milos Vucevic announced of the raised alert level.

The president also ordered a special Serbian security response unit to be beefed up, which is to result in thousands of elite troops being positioned near the restive border.

In response, on Wednesday Kosovo authorities closed its biggest border crossing. Serb protesters were already blocking it, including with large trucks, leaving only three entry points between the two sides open. Some entry points have been blocked since early December. 

As a result, thousands of Kosovars who work elsewhere in Europe have been unable to travel home, and are stuck at the border. On the other side, inside northern Kosovo, are some 50,000 ethnic Serbs who say they are persecuted by Pristina authorities, including an attempt to force Kosovo vehicle plates and state documentation on them

Ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, via Reuters.

Serbs on the Serbian side have reportedly been assisting protesters on the Kosovo side of the border in establishing roadblocks, effectively preventing Kosovo border police from establishing control.

The catalyst for this latest flare-up in border tensions started early this month, with the arrest of a popular former Serb policeman Dejan Pantic by Kosovo. Kosovo has accused the Serbian ex-police officer who is now in detention is "of committing terrorist acts and attacking the constitutional order"; however, this enraged the ethnic Serb population there.

Meanwhile, as with many geopolitical flashpoints in eastern Europe and the Balkans, there are allegations of Russian attempts at a destabilization campaign, given its historic support for Belgrade:

Kosovo’s interior minister has accused Serbia, under the influence of Russia, of attempting to destabilize his country via the protests.

Serbia denies it is trying to destabilize its neighbor and says it only wants to protect the Serbian minority living in what is now Kosovan territory but is not recognized by Belgrade.

During a Serbian national security council held two weeks ago under President Vucic, he said he would mull a request for national forces to be sent to Kosovo to protect the Serb minority. While unlikely, such a confrontation would inevitably spark war.