Earlier today, reports appeared that Serbia has set up at least two roadblocks on its border with Kosovo and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti is blaming Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic,  for increasing border tensions. The reports state that armed Serb civilians have fired at Kosovo police forces who entered ethnic Serb neighborhoods in Kosovo.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti has appeared on TV to confirm that gunshots were fired by “criminals controlled by Serbia’s govt” in northern Kosovo while urging the population to stay calm saying, ” The hours & days ahead can be challenging. We’re facing the Serbian chauvinism that we know well…Will work day & night for our democratic Republic.”

Ukrainian parliament member Oleksiy Goncharenko Tweeted, “If Serbia invades Kosovo, we should defend the Kosovars. Ukraine is ready to act with our troops on the ground. Serbia is trying to start an aggressive war. Precisely according to Putin’s method. As I said, Serbia is Putin’s Trojan horse in Europe. War anywhere in the world is terrible.”

“Putin’s method” probably refers to recent rhetoric coming out of the Kremlin accusing Kosovo of cracking down on Serbians within its borders and violating their rights.  Russia supposedly acting to free ethnic Russians from Ukrainian oppression was the pretext for its original invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and then again in 2022. This was echoed by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in a televised address today, “All I can say is that we will ask for peace and ask for peace, but I will tell you right away: there will be no surrender and Serbia will win. If they try to start persecuting Serbs, bullying Serbs, killing Serbs, Serbia will win!”

The leader of the ruling party in Serbia’s parliament has adopted the language of Russia in its invasion of Ukraine tweeting, Serbia will have no choice but to begin the de-Nazification of the Balkans.”

In Kosovo, NATO forces in the KFOR (International security forces) are reportedly occupying a position at the bridge over the Ibar River in the city of Kosovska Mitrovica, in the northern province of Kosovo. The KFOR is an international peacekeeping force of about 3,600 troops from 28 countries stationed in Kosovo under UN Resolution 1244 signed in 1999. KFOR is under NATO’s Joint Forces Command headquartered in Naples, Italy, and led by US Navy Admiral Stuart B. Munsch.

US Forces are a part of the KFOR and number less than 700 troops and is the largest contingent of troops in the unit. As of March 2022, the US troops assigned to the KFOR Maneuver Battalion were troops from the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment, the “Mountain Warriors,” of the Kentucky National Guard.  Detachments from the 10th Special Forces Group also operate in Kosovo in an advisory and training role with Kosovo armed forces. The Italian Carabinieri is also reportedly near this bridge, while Albanian troops are moving into the southern part of the city of Kosovska Mitrovica which is less than 10 miles from the border with Serbia. Cafes and restaurants in the north of this city are reportedly closed as air raid sirens are still being heard.  Highways connecting the cities of Rudari, Zvechani, and Zubin Potok in Kokovo are blocked by police and military forces.

 

Members from 10th Special Forces Group conduct squad level maneuvering and tactics during a Bi-lateral (BILAT) training exercise with the Kosovo Special Intervention Unit March 10, 2022 in Pristina, Kosovo. The Kosovo BILAT exercise was conducted to strengthen relationships and increase interoperability between partner nations in the Balkans. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt Stanford Toran)

 

NATO-OTAN issued a press release stating it is ready to intervene should Serbia invade Kosovo. It attacked, the KFOR would be able to call on NATO air and naval assets in Italy.

 

 

Last November SOFREP wrote about an emerging threat coming from Serbia to undermine the Dayton Accords which ended a vicious three-way civil war that ended up drawing NATO into the conflict to stop genocide and ethnic cleansing.  We noted that Russia had staged an attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016 and had blocked Kosovo from being recognized by the United Nations.

Serbia has been rearming itself at a rapid pace while claiming that it is remaining within the confines of the Dayton Accords and is only replacing old and worn-out equipment with new gear, mostly from Russia and China.

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For Putin, whose invasion of Ukraine has been a military disaster, stirring up the Serbian conflict would be of use in distracting and perhaps even drawing more NATO forces into Kosovo and away from Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Estonia.  It would be like opening a second political and military front that he hopes will tax US and EU supply and logistics shipping arms to Kosovo to fight Serbians even as it tried to supply Ukraine.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement in support of Serbia that is eerily similar to the accusations it leveled against Ukraine with regard to the treatment of ethnic Russians in Ukraine just before the invasion.

“The decision of the ‘authorities’ in Pristina to start applying unjustified discriminatory ‘rules’ regarding the forced placement of person documents and registration numbers of local Serbs as of August 1 is another step towards expelling the Serbian population from Kosovo and forcing out Kosovo institutions that protect the rights of Serb residents from arbitrary actions of Pristina radicals led by ‘Prime Minister’ A. Curti. Kosovar leaders know that Serbs will not remain indifferent when it comes to a direct attack on their freedoms, and they are deliberately aggravating it in order to launch a violent scenario. Of course, Belgrade, which the West wants to ‘neutralize’ additionally with Kosovo Albanian hands, is also on the edge of the attack. We call on Pristina and the U.S. and EU who are behind it, to stop these provocations and respect the rights of Serbs in Kosovo. Such a development is further evidence of the failure of the European Union’s mediation mission. It is also an example of the place that the European Union has prepared for Belgrade, inviting Belgrade to accept the de facto disenfranchisement of its compatriots”