Kosovo tightens border security after saying 3 police officers 'kidnapped' by Serbian forces

Kosovo’s prime minister says border security will be tightened following what he described as Serbia’s role in the “kidnapping of three police officers.”

Sylejman Kllokoqi,Llazar Semini
Thursday 15 June 2023 10:16 BST

Kosovo’s prime minister on Thursday said border security would be tightened following what he described as Serbia’s role in the "kidnapping of three police officers.”

Prime Minister Albin Kurti also criticized NATO-led international peacekeepers for not providing an official explanation of what happened to the three border police officers. Kurti says they were "kidnapped inside Kosovo’s territory” while Belgrade says they were “arrested” in Serbian territory.

Kurti, speaking at a news conference, showed maps of where the incident allegedly occurred, saying that Serbia’s special police and army units had entered deep into Kosovo territory.

After a meeting of Kosovo's top security council, the prime minister said border checks would increase and traffic from Serbia would be limited, but he added they were not “commercial steps,” suggesting goods would continue to move freely across the border.

“What surprises us is the silence and tolerance of international bodies to Serbia’s actions. Serbia continuously looks for pretexts to escalate and destabilize, and when there is no pretext it is ready and able to create one,” Kurti said.

In an interview with The Associated Press last week, Kurti complained of bias against his country from the United States and the European Union and tolerance of what he called Serbia’s authoritarian regime.

The latest incident further raises tensions between Serbia and its former province. Serbia had put its troops on the border on the highest state of alert amid a series of recent clashes between Kosovo Serbs on one side, and Kosovo police and NATO-led peacekeepers on the other.

A Kosovo official in Belgrade has requested to visit the three officers.

Kurti also contacted U.S. officials and asked them to press Serbia to release the police officers.

The incident came a day after Kosovo police arrested in northern Mitrovica — an area mostly populated by the ethnic Serb minority — an alleged organizer of Serb protests in the country’s north, including one in which last month 30 NATO-led peacekeepers were injured. Three police officers were injured in the operation.

Tensions in Kosovo flared anew late last month, including with violent clashes, after Kosovo police seized local municipality buildings in northern Kosovo, where Serbs represent a majority, to install ethnic Albanian mayors who were elected in a local election in April after Serbs overwhelmingly boycotted the vote.

Serbia and its former province Kosovo have been at odds for decades, with Belgrade refusing to recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. The latest violence near their shared border has stirred fears of a renewal of a 1998-99 conflict in Kosovo that claimed more than 10,000 lives, mostly ethnic Albanians.


Llazar Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

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