Local elections originally scheduled for December 18-25 in northern Kosovo have been postponed to April 23, 2023, due to growing ethnic tensions. This was announced by President Vjosa Osmani on Saturday after consultations with the political parties and security forces in Pristina.
At the same time, there were road blockades and gunfights with the police in the northern region, inhabited mostly by ethnic Serbs. Initially, nobody was injured. The officers were shot at by three different groups near the Bernjak border crossing, police said.
Two border crossings towards Serbia were closed because of the road blockades. "Extremist groups" have set up barricades in the towns of Leposavic, Zvecan and Zubin Potok, Interior Minister Xhlelal Zvecla wrote on Facebook. The roadblocks are protesting the arrest of an ethnic Serb blamed for attacks on a planned polling station.
The source of the fire is in the very north of Kosovo
In neighboring Serbia, President Aleksandar Vucic disapproved of this arrest and announced that he wanted to request the Kosovo Protection Force KFOR to transfer up to 1,000 Serbian soldiers and police officers to Kosovo. However, he does not expect this to be approved, added Vucic.
Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti reacted with the words: "Serbia has been threatening Kosovo with aggression for several days. The President and Prime Minister of Serbia are demanding the return of the Serbian army to Kosovo," he wrote on Facebook. "We don't want conflict, we want peace and progress. But we will respond to aggression with all the power we have," Kurti added.
To this day, Serbia is not ready to recognize Kosovo's statehood, which has existed since 2008. The small Balkan country is now almost exclusively inhabited by Albanians. In the enclave of North Mitrovica, which borders directly with Serbia, Belgrade operates its own power structures, which rely on militant activists and criminals. These repeatedly erect roadblocks and initiate violent incidents.
shots at police officers
Municipal elections were necessary in four municipalities in northern Kosovo because the local Serbian mayors and municipal representatives had resigned from their posts. In doing so, they had protested against the now suspended license plate regulation of the government in Pristina. With the license plate regulation, Pristina wanted to ensure that ethnic Serbs from Kosovo stop registering their vehicles with Serbian authorities and instead apply for Kosovar license plates.
When the election was postponed, Osmani referred to analyzes by the police and the secret services of the danger situation. On the night of Friday, Serbian militants shot at a Kosovan police patrol in the municipality of Zvecan. A police officer suffered minor injuries and the officer's vehicle was severely damaged.
On Tuesday, militant Serbs also fired shots in the air at election workers and police officers who wanted to prepare for the elections. The ethnic Serb arrested on Saturday, a former Kosovan police officer, was behind this action.
As a result, the Kosovan police strengthened their forces in the northern part of the divided city of Mitrovica. 300 additional police officers took up positions in the districts inhabited by Albanians and Bosniaks in the otherwise mostly Serb half of the city.