Serbia’s president has ordered the army to be ready to fight and move closer to Kosovo after clashes between protesters and police in the breakaway region.
“The army has received an urgent order to approach Kosovo,” announced Serbian Defense Minister Milos Vucevic on May 26, President Aleksandar Vucic’s decision. “It is clear that in Kosovo there is a terrorist act against the Serb community.”
Earlier, clashes broke out between protesters and police in the town of Zvecan in Kosovo, when crowds prevented the newly elected Albanian mayor from entering his office. Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters. Zvecan is a city with a majority Serb population, while Albanians are an ethnic group with roots in Kosovo.
The collision left four people injured and a police car on fire. NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo dispatched several vehicles to Zvecan city center after the clash.
Police cars near a burnt-out car in Zvecan, Kosovo, on May 26. Photo: Reuters
Kosovo, with an area of about 10,800 square kilometers, is a breakaway territory located southwest of Serbia. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but Serbia does not recognize and claim the area. Kosovo has 1.8 million inhabitants, mostly Albanians.
About 120,000 Serbs living in northern Kosovo do not recognize Pristina’s government. They are politically loyal to Serbia, which still provides financial support to the community.
Most Western countries recognize Kosovo’s independence, but the breakaway region has failed to secure a seat at the United Nations, over objections from Russia and China.
Tensions in Kosovo rose last year after the local government planned to hold elections in towns where most Serbs live, prompting a series of shootings and roadblocks. Kosovo authorities postponed the vote until April.
About 50,000 Serbs living in four municipalities in northern Kosovo, including Zvecan, protested the April 23 vote because their demands for greater autonomy were not met.
Voter participation in these locations was 3.47%. The Serbian community claims not to work with mayors belonging to the Albanian party because it does not represent them.
Location of Kosovo and Serbia. Graphics: Britannica
Nguyen Tien (according to Reuters)