Politics, World, Europe

Serbia rejects Kosovo allegation of Belgrade's plans to annex Kosovo's northern territories

Serbian army was not involved in clashes with Kosovo police on Sept. 24, nor did it enter Kosovar territory, says Defense Minister Vucevic

Talha Ozturk  | 02.10.2023 - Update : 02.10.2023
Serbia rejects Kosovo allegation of Belgrade's plans to annex Kosovo's northern territories


Serbian Defense Minister Milos Vucevic rejected allegations by the Kosovo prime minister of Belgrade's plans to annex Kosovo's northern territories, saying the country's army was not involved in clashes on Sept 24.

Vucevic denied allegations made earlier in the day by Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti during a joint press conference with Chief of the General Staff Milan Mojsilovic in Belgrade, saying the Serbian army was not involved in clashes with Kosovo police on Sept 24.

“The Serbian army never entered the territory of Kosovo,” he said, suggesting that a “greater presence of NATO forces in Kosovo would improve the security of local Serbs.”

On Sept. 24, a clash broke out in the village of Banjska in northern Kosovo near the Serbian border when a group of armed Serbs blocked a bridge with two trucks. A shootout erupted after the group opened fire on police, leaving one police officer dead and another injured.

Earlier on Monday, Kosovo Prime Minister Kurti blamed Serbia for plans to annex the country's northern territories.

"Based on confiscated documentation, Kosovo Police have confirmed that the terrorist attack was part of a larger plan to annex the north of Kosova via a coordinated attack on 37 distinct positions. Establishing a corridor to Serbia would follow, to enable the supply of arms and troops," said Kurti on X.

"In all these years, NATO's KFOR mission troops have never crossed into Serbian territory, nor has the Serbian Army done so without the permission of KFOR. The Serbian Army has never violated any agreement, and this is not technical but critical information," Vucevic said.

"There is a systematic campaign against the Serbian Army, against its deployment on Serbian territory. If the Serbian Armed Forces receive such an order from the President of Serbia as Commander-in-Chief to enter Kosmet territory, the Serbian Armed Forces will carry out such a task," he added.

However, he said such a task would be carried out professionally and would certainly be announced to KFOR in advance.

"The fact that someone releases thermal images from an obscure location, with completely unidentified people and faces, does not necessarily mean anything,” he explained.

Vucevic also showed several photos of Kosovo police carrying weapons made in Serbia and asked the Pristina authorities if, by that logic, Serbia also armed and trained the Kosovo police.

"I ask Kurti and his co-perpetrator what will happen if the Kosovo police use our weapons. Our rifles are used by their (Kosovo) special units. The photos show their special forces with rifles that were produced in Serbia. We certainly did not arm them. How did the Albanians get Serbian weapons?" Vucevic wondered.

According to him, the photos he has shown are of Kosovo police and special forces holding M70 rifles, M72 submachine guns, and other Serbian-made weapons.

Though Serbia did not sell them the rifles, he added.

Serbia's Chief of General Staff, Milan Mojsilovic, also denied recent Kosovo allegations that the army had deployed tanks, artillery, and infantry to the border.

He explained that there was no combat readiness of the Serbian Armed Forces because it was not required while rejecting a series of allegations by Kosovo for military training in connection with alleged plans to annex the northern territories, where ethnic Serbs are the majority.

"There was no raising of full combat readiness, but only increased presence and engagement of units in the land security zone and in the grip of the administrative line," Mojsilovic said, adding that "after the outbreak of the security crisis, the Serbian Army increased its presence in the terrestrial security zone."

On Sept. 25, he said that 8,350 personnel were already engaged, not only to secure the administrative line in the terrestrial security zone but also in formations of units that were located and deployed near the administrative line.

"From a military point of view, I think that all comments on the numerical size of the Serbian Army are totally unnecessary," said the minister.

Mojsilovic also denied the allegations leveled against Milan Radojicic, vice president of the Serbian List, a minority political party in Kosovo’s northern town of Zvecan.

Kosovo claimed that the armed Serbian group was led by Radoicic.

"Milan Radoicic did not participate in the training at Pasuljanski Livade… he did not fire a single bullet, nor did he fire any grenade, he did not attend those activities,” he said, rejecting Kosovo’s claim of his participation in the training.

“He was invited to practice on a couple of occasions, but he did not respond. And what Radoicic does on private property is not a matter for the Serbian Army,” Mojsilovic said.

Kosovo on Sunday posted footage and photos showing the armed group trained in Pasuljanske Livade, one of the Serbian Army's key bases.

A large number of security forces were dispatched to the region, and the Brnjak border crossing between Kosovo and Serbia was closed.

The area has been the scene of unrest since April, when local ethnic Serbs boycotted elections in northern Kosovo, followed by protests against the election of ethnic Albanian mayors.

Albanians are by far the largest ethnic group in Kosovo, followed by Serbs, with about half living in the country's north.

Amid the unrest over the elections, NATO peacekeepers were deployed, including a group of extra Turkish reinforcements.

The last week has seen a “large Serbian military deployment along the border with Kosovo," according to the US National Security Council, whose spokesman called the deployment “a very destabilizing development.”

Kosovo on Saturday called on Serbia to pull back its troops.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg wrote Friday on X that “NATO Allies met today & expressed deep concern about tensions in northern Kosovo.”

Vucic later denied that Serbia was engaging in a military build-up along the border with Kosovo.

“A campaign of lies…has been launched against our Serbia,” he said in a video posted on Instagram on Sunday.

“They have lied a lot about the presence of our military forces…In fact, they are bothered that Serbia has what they describe as sophisticated weapons,” he added.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and gained recognition from many countries, including Türkiye. But Belgrade has never recognized Kosovo and claims that its territory is still part of Serbia.

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