Austrian economist and social media personality, Gunther Fehlinger, has sparked controversy with his recent comments calling for NATO forces to “bomb Belgrade now.” This statement comes in response to a deadly shootout that took place in Kosovo, near its border with Serbia, where three men were killed and six others arrested.
The incident occurred in the village of Banjska, where gunmen arrived in the early hours of the morning, blockading a bridge with unmarked trucks. They then engaged in a gunfight with Kosovo police officers, resulting in the death of one officer. Fehlinger, who identifies himself as the founder of the European Committee for NATO Enlargement for Kosovo, Ukraine, Armenia, Austria, and Moldova, accused Belgrade and Moscow of orchestrating the attack.
In a now-deleted tweet, Fehlinger stated, “[The] Serb war against Kosovo has started in Banjska. As I warned all year, Russia and Serbia want [a] Southern Front – now it is there! I call NATO to prepare intervention against Serbia immediately. Bomb Belgrade now!” These inflammatory comments have drawn criticism from many who view Fehlinger as a troll and provocateur.
Fehlinger is known for his controversial statements on social media, often advocating for the dismantlement of nations that oppose NATO expansion or have trade relations with Russia. Despite his qualifications as an economist and his involvement with organizations promoting EU and NATO enlargement, many consider his opinions to be divisive and inflammatory.
Interestingly, Fehlinger’s assessment of the situation in Banjska finds support from Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Albin Kurti. Kurti took to social media to claim that the attackers were not ordinary Kosovo Serb citizens but instead Serbian-state supported troops. He further alleged that the assailants had political, financial, and logistical support from official Belgrade. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, on the other hand, denied any involvement from Belgrade, stating that it was local Serbs who had set up the barricade and were attacked by Kosovo forces.
The tension between Kosovo and Serbia has a long history, with Serbs being a minority in Kosovo due to centuries of Ottoman rule, Albanian-led pogroms during World War II, and the NATO air war against Serbia in 1999. Many Serbian leaders have raised concerns about Kurti’s intentions to drive the remaining Serbs out of the province, and incidents like the one in Banjska have only intensified these fears. Local Serbs often set up barricades to protect themselves from raids by Kurti’s forces.
In response to the recent events, President Vucic warned that Kurti “wants to drag us into a war with NATO.” He emphasized that Kosovo, which is currently occupied by NATO forces, will never gain independence from Serbia, no matter how hard foreign elements try. These statements reflect the ongoing tensions and political complexities in the region.
As the aftermath of the shootout in Banjska unfolds, it is clear that the situation in Kosovo remains highly sensitive and prone to escalations. The differing perspectives of key figures involved, like Fehlinger, Kurti, and Vucic, only serve to fuel the already existing divisions. The international community, particularly NATO, will need to carefully navigate these complexities to ensure stability and the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the region.