Detention of Former Serb Police Officer Brings Kosovo Back to the Brink
Last month, tensions in the Western Balkans boiled up to their most dangerous levels in recent memory at a time when they have been simmering at a hotter temperature than usual.
On December 10th, road barricades were erected at six different locations in the north of Kosovo, which were manned by hundreds of Kosovo Serbs in response to the arrest of a former Serb police officer. Authorities in Kosovo responded by closing two border crossings with Serbia at Jarinje and Bernjak. Police said they exchanged gunfire with armed Serbs on at least three occasions, and report that a European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) patrol was attacked by someone who threw a stun grenade—though no injuries or damage resulted from the attack. Pristina described the Serbs manning the barricades as “masked criminals,” and Kosovo police reported sporadic gunshots and small explosions at the height of the incident. Air raid sirens sounded in Mitrovica and the Serbian Armed Forces were put on high alert. A Serbian army chief was dispatched to the border on December 25th. The barricades remained up for nearly three weeks and were only removed on December 28th-30th amidst a tenuous de-escalation. Though, RFE/RL reports that trucks forming a barricade were set on fire in Mitrovica during the morning hours of December 29th, apparently by Serbs who disagreed with the brief detente between Belgrade and Pristina.