The president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, has accused a NATO peacekeeping force deployed in Kosovo of turning a blind eye to a police crackdown on local Serbs. This accusation comes in the wake of a deadly skirmish that occurred in the village of Banjska in the northern part of Kosovo.
President Vucic addressed the chaos at a press conference, stating that a group of Serbs had erected a barricade in the settlement, leading to clashes with Kosovo police. One officer was killed during the incident, and a total of three local Serbs were killed, with two others wounded and another person feared dead.
However, the Kosovo authorities have claimed that around 30 heavily armed gunmen ambushed the local police and later fled to a nearby monastery. After a shootout that lasted several hours, law enforcement managed to clear the church. The authorities confirmed the death of three Serbs and the arrest of five others.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti alleged that the culprits behind the skirmish were “Serbian state-backed troops” who carried out “terrorist acts.” President Vucic categorically denied these allegations and stated that Prime Minister Kurti was to blame for the fatal altercation. Vucic accused Kurti of trying to drag Serbia into a war with NATO.
President Vucic also criticized the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR), which has been stationed in the breakaway region for more than two decades, for supporting Pristina. He claimed that Serbs in Banjska were completely surrounded within an hour and 20 minutes, suggesting that this action was done in cooperation with international forces.
Vucic further alleged that the KFOR did not intervene to prevent the violence, which resulted in more casualties. He believed that KFOR had given Kurti a “carte blanche” to deal with the so-called terrorists and kill as many people as possible. These accusations against KFOR have raised concerns about the impartiality of the peacekeeping force.
Tensions have been escalating in the northern part of Kosovo for several months. Ethnic Serbs, who make up the majority in that region, boycotted municipal elections earlier this year due to Pristina’s reluctance to grant them more autonomy. While Serbia and Kosovo have attempted to normalize ties and address the issue, EU-mediated talks earlier this month failed to produce a breakthrough.
It is important to note that Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008 with the support of many Western countries. However, it is not recognized by Russia, China, and Serbia itself.
The recent deadly skirmish in Banjska and the accusations made by President Vucic have further strained the already tense relations between Serbia and Kosovo. The international community will be closely monitoring the situation and urging both sides to engage in peaceful dialogue to resolve their differences.