Status: 02.10.2023, 04:45 a.m.
By: Nail Akkoyun
The U.S. government has spoken of an "unprecedented" deployment of Serbian troops in Kosovo. © Visar Kryeziu/dpa
The fighting in northern Kosovo is escalating, NATO is sending additional forces. According to the Kosovar government, Serbian troops would continue to advance.
Update from October 1, 7:49 a.m.: The warnings to Serbia are having an effect: The country has apparently withdrawn part of its troops from the border with Kosovo. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić announced that he had ordered this. He told the Financial Times that any military action would be counterproductive, adding, "Serbia does not want war."
A Kosovo government official confirmed the partial withdrawal to the BBC. According to the report, the United States had previously warned Vučić that he was threatened with punitive measures. The White House had described the troop increase as "unprecedented".
A member of the Kosovo police is stationed in Banjska (northern Kosovo) near the border with Serbia Armend © Nimani/AFP
Federal Foreign Office calls on Serbia to de-escalate Kosovo conflict
Update from September 30, 22:00 p.m.: In view of the recent tensions in the Kosovo conflict, the Federal Foreign Office has called on the Serbian Government in Belgrade to de-escalate. There should be no further escalation between Serbia and Kosovo, the Foreign Office wrote on the Internet platform X (formerly Twitter). "It is important that Serbia immediately reduces troops on the border." With its partners, Berlin is "in close contact" with all sides. The political process must be continued "urgently".
Kosovo sounds the alarm: Serbian army is advancing "from three different directions"
Meanwhile, the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo is taking on threatening proportions, with Pristina accusing Belgrade of advancing militarily towards Kosovo "from three different directions". This emerges from a message from the Kosovar government, which is also available to the German Press Agency by e-mail.
The advance serves "a possible military aggression against the Republic of Kosovo." Units of the Second Brigade of the Serbian Army had moved from the direction of Raska towards the northern border of Kosovo, units of the Third Brigade from the Nis region towards the northeastern border and units of the Fourth Brigade from the Vranje region towards the eastern border, the government in Pristina wrote.
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Serbia has sent military and police to 48 advanced bases of operations along the border with Kosovo, in Serbian territory, a few kilometers from the Kosovo border. Serbia had brought anti-aircraft systems and heavy artillery into position. Kosovo, in coordination with international partners, is "more determined than ever to protect territorial integrity," the government's statement said.
U.S. alarmed over Kosovo conflict: "Deployment of advanced Serbian artillery"
Update from September 30, 11:30 a.m.: The U.S. government is observing an "unprecedented" deployment of Serbian troops on the border with Kosovo. This was stated by the communications director of the National Security Council, John Kirby, in Washington. It is "an unprecedented deployment of advanced Serbian artillery, tanks and mechanized infantry units." This was reported by the German Press Agency (dpa) on Saturday, September 30. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called on Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in a telephone call to return "immediately" to "de-escalation and dialogue".
First reported on 30 September:
Brussels/Pristina – Following the heavy fighting between Serbian paramilitaries and Kosovar police in northern Kosovo, NATO is strengthening the KFOR protection force it leads. The North Atlantic Council, the organization's main decision-making body, approved the deployment of additional forces to the small Balkan country, the alliance announced in Brussels on Friday (29 September). It did not provide any information about the number of additional soldiers.
According to information from the German Press Agency (dpa), the reinforcement could be provided by Great Britain. Just a few months ago, the Ministry of Defence in London announced that the United Kingdom wanted to make a "decisive contribution" to the protection force until at least 2026.
Top politician allegedly behind attack in northern Kosovo
A 30-strong, heavily armed Serbian commando squad had taken up position last Sunday (24 September) in the village of Banjska near Mitrovica and fought battles with the Kosovo police. At least three Serbian attackers and a Kosovar police officer were killed. Meanwhile, the Kosovo Serbian top politician and businessman Milan Radoicic has claimed responsibility for the attack in northern Kosovo five days ago.
"I decided to do this act because all the methods of resistance used so far have not brought any improvement in the lives of the Serbian people," Radoicic wrote in a statement read by his lawyer to the press in Belgrade on Friday. At the same time, he announced that he would resign as vice-chairman of the Serbian List, the party of the Kosovo Serbs. Radoicic's current whereabouts are unknown.
The government in Pristina, meanwhile, accuses Belgrade of training, equipping, financing and sending the paramilitaries to Kosovo in order to destabilize the country. The Serbian leadership denies the allegations.
NATO troops stationed in the Balkans: German soldiers also present
Kosovo, which is now inhabited almost exclusively by Albanians, seceded from Serbia in 1999 with NATO help and declared independence in 2008. More than 100 countries, including Germany, recognize independence. KFOR has been responsible for ensuring security in the country since 1999.
According to the latest figures, it currently has about 4500 soldiers from a total of 27 NATO countries and partner states. Germany recently took part in the KFOR mission with around 80 soldiers. In May, the alliance had already decided to increase its presence in Kosovo by 700 troops. This was in response to serious riots by Serbian mobs against KFOR soldiers in northern Kosovo. At that time, 30 Italian and Hungarian soldiers and more than 50 Serbs had suffered injuries. (nak/dpa)