MITROVICA, Kosovo, Dec 27 (Reuters) – Serbs protested in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo on Tuesday, hours after Serbia said its army was on the highest war alert following weeks of heightened tensions between Belgrade and Belgrade. decided to build new barricades. Prishtina.
In response to recent events in the region and the belief that Kosovo is preparing to attack Serbs and remove barricades by force, Serbia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement Monday that President Aleksandar Vucic ordered the Serbian army and police take them to the battlefield. the highest alarm.
“There is no reason to panic, but there is concern,” Serbian Defense Minister Milos Vucevic told RTS television on Monday.
Since December 10, Serbs have set up roadblocks around Mitrovica in northern Kosovo and opened fire on police after a former Serbian policeman was arrested on charges of assaulting on-duty officers during an earlier protest.
About 50,000 Serbs live in the northern part of Kosovo, where the majority are ethnic Albanians, and refuse to recognize the government and the state of Pristina. They consider Belgrade their capital and are supported by Serbia, from which Kosovo declared its independence in 2008.
On Monday, the Kosovo government issued a statement saying, “Kosovo cannot negotiate with criminal gangs and freedom of movement must be restored. There must be no obstacles in any way.”
It added that police were able and ready to act, but were waiting for NATO’s KFOR Kosovo peacekeeping force, which maintains a neutral role, to respond to their request to remove the barricades.
“We call on all parties to help ensure security and freedom of movement in Kosovo and to refrain from influencing the dialogue process,” KFOR said in a statement.
Trucks were parked in Mitrovica on Tuesday morning to block the road that connects the Serbian part of the city with the predominantly Albanian part.
Local Serbs demand the release of the arrested officer and have other demands before the barriers are lifted.
Ethnic Serb mayors in northern municipalities, along with local judges and some 600 police officers, resigned last month in protest at the Kosovo government’s decision to replace Serbian license plates with those printed in Pristina.
Reporting by Fatos Bitici and Ivana Sekularak Editing by Alexandra Hudson
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