Russia shows support for Serbia and fuels tensions with Kosovo

Calls for calm and “moderation” in the difficult relations between Kosovo and Serbia intensified on Wednesday with a joint statement from the United States and the European Union. The two called on both Belgrade and Pristina to “take immediate action” to de-escalate tensions. “We call on everyone to immediately exercise maximum restraint, take steps to unconditionally de-escalate, and refrain from provocation, threats or intimidation,” they said.

NATO, through its mission in Kosovo (KFOR), also called for dialogue between all parties to de-escalate tensions in the north of the country.

“It is critical that all those involved avoid any rhetoric or actions that could cause problems and escalate the situation,” KFOR general Angelo Michele Restuccia said in a statement. “Solutions must be sought through dialogue,” he added.

Over the past few months, the situation has deteriorated in the northern region of Mitrovica, where Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians live side by side, for various reasons. First there was a ban on vehicle license plates issued by Serbia. Then the mass resignation of Serbs from Kosovo’s institutions and the cancellation of the elections to replace them. The latest event to increase unrest was the arrest of a Serbian policeman accused of carrying out attacks on the headquarters of the Central Electoral Commission. All of this has led to roadblocks and border crossings erected by moralistic Serbs, prompting Kosovo’s local police to close the main border crossing with Serbia on Wednesday.

To this was added the dialectical exchanges with certain warlike speeches between the Serbian president, Alexander Fucik, and Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Corti. On Tuesday, Vucic accused Kosovo of preparing to attack Serbs in the north of the country and vowed to “protect our people (in Kosovo) and preserve Serbia.” In response, Kurti blamed Belgrade for being behind “paramilitary formations” responsible for erecting the barriers, and suggested that Russia was encouraging Belgrade to destabilize the region.

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Although the Kremlin denied the accusations, a Russian presidential spokesperson said on Wednesday itself, Dmitry MedvedevHe showed his support for Serbia: “Of course, we support Belgrade in the measures it takes,” according to what was quoted by the Russian news agency Interfax.

Moscow is Belgrade’s biggest supporter and plays its role above all through disinformation. “Russia is also fueling this conflict” by using its state channels Sputnik and Russia Today, in Serbian, to spread disinformation in the Balkans, asserts Tafta Kelmadi, an analyst at the European think tank ECFR. “This affects public opinion on the Kosovo issue, as well as on the issue of the role of the European Union and the West in general in the region,” says the analyst.

For more than 20 years, Kosovo has been a source of tension between the West, where the United States has been a key supporter of Pristina in backing its independence, and Russia, which backs Serbia in its efforts to block Kosovo’s membership in international organizations, including the United States. Nations.

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