Kosovo closes main border crossing with Serbia. Last Minute GERMANY, France, England, Russia headlines and events
Kosovo also closed its largest border crossing with Serbia after Serbian protesters closed the border crossing on the Serbian side in support of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo.
The Kosovo government has decided to replace the license plates issued by Serbia. Tensions between Belgrade and Pristina escalated as ethnic Serbs in Kosovo abandoned this leftist state institutions, including the police and judiciary.
Kosovo’s interior minister, Celal Shvechla, said yesterday that Serbia, under Russian influence, is seeking to destabilize Kosovo.
Serbia rejects this claim and says it only wants to protect minorities in Kosovo.
The Kremlin denied Kosovo’s accusations, but said it supported Belgrade. “Serbia is a sovereign country, and it is absolutely wrong to look for the destructive influence of Russia here,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Kosovo is a source of tension between the West, which has supported its independence for more than 20 years, and Russia, which is backing Serbia’s attempts to block its membership in international organizations such as the UN.
Since December 10, after the arrest of a former Serbian policeman, Serbs in northern Kosovo have been confronting the police. Serbs have built more than 10 barricades in and around Mitrovica.
“Former Serbian policeman who provoked demonstrations will be released”
The arrest of former Kosovo Serb policeman Dejan Pantic has heightened tensions between Pristina and Belgrade. A Pristina court spokesman told the Reuters news agency that Pantik would be released and placed under house arrest.
Pantik was arrested on December 10 for assaulting police officers during a former protest.
On Monday, Serbia put its troops on high alert. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić inspected the troops at the border late last night.
News reports in the Belgrade media indicated that Serbian activists in Serbia built a barricade yesterday near the Merdare Gate on Kosovo’s eastern border using a truck and a tractor.
The government of Pristina asked the NATO peacekeeping force KFOR to remove the barricades, but KFOR is not authorized to operate on the territory of Serbia.
KFOR said today that they support dialogue between all parties to reduce tensions in the north of the country.
Major General Angelo Michele Ristuccia said: “It is very important that all participants refrain from words or actions that could cause and increase tension.”
“The solution must be found through dialogue,” Ristuccia said.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the Kosovo Foreign Ministry said the Merdare border crossing had been closed since midnight and said: “If you entered Serbia, then you must use other border crossings or go through North Macedonia.”
“Kosovo is the most important point for road transport”
The Merdare border gate is the most important road transport point in Kosovo. The fact that this door is closed also prevents Kosovars working elsewhere in Europe from returning home for the holidays.
Since December 10, two small border crossings on the northern border with Serbia have been closed. Currently, only three points of entry are open between the two countries.
The Kosovo police said that Pristina’s main airport was also closed yesterday morning due to a bomb threat. Police did not specify whether the message was related to recent tensions.
Serbian Defense Minister Milos Vučević noted that Vučić had held talks with the “five of the five”, which includes the United States, Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, to resolve the current tension.
The German Foreign Ministry said it was concerned about tensions between Serbia and Kosovo and was focused on efforts to remove barricades between the two countries.
Some 50,000 Serbs living in ethnically divided northern Kosovo refuse to recognize the government in Pristina or recognize Kosovo as an independent state separate from Serbia. Many Serbs and Serbian governments support ethnic Serbs in Kosovo.
Albanian-majority Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 with Western support after the 1998-99 war, when NATO intervened to protect its ethnic Albanian citizens.
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