Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo, where they are in the majority, have set up barricades, preventing free movement of Kosovan authorities, despite U.S. and EU calls for the illegal roadblocks to be dismantled.
A large group of members of the Narodne Patrole – a Serbian nationalist organization with ties to the Russian paramilitary group Wagner – gathered next to the Serbia-Kosovo border on Dec. 18, threatening to confront NATO troops.
Kurti said he was concerned the tense situation could escalate to Putin’s benefit – distracting the West from working on helping Ukraine defend itself. Russian and Serbian forces having conducted 104 joint military exercises in 2021.
“I think our Western partners and friends are worried about Belgrade’s links to Moscow,” he said.
“We do not know how they could be rendered operative in case of rising of tensions, towards escalation in the north. I think that their major concern is precisely this: now that Russia got severely wounded in Ukraine after its invasion and aggression, they have interest in spillover. They have interest in outsourcing their war-mongering drive to the Balkans, where they have a client in Serbia.”
After the 1998-1999 war, when Serbian authorities launched repressions and purges against the Kosovo Albanian ethnic majority, and NATO eventually intervened in the conflict, the region came under the control of the UN. Ten years later, Kosovan Albanians declared independence from Serbia, but Belgrade and its supporters did not recognize the new Kosovan state.
Since then, NATO peacekeeping contingent of almost 4,000 troops has been deployed in the region, while the EU is mediating the process of normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina. Both capital cities seek EU membership. From time to time, ethnic flare up in Kosovo – a country of 1.8 million people, of whom 92% are Albanians and 6% – Serbs.
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