The West is worried that Russia will try to divert attention from the war in Ukraine by sowing discord in the Balkans.
The country’s president disputed reports of a Serbian military buildup on Kosovo’s border. Following a gunfight that killed four people and heightened tensions in the Balkan region, he complained about a “campaign of misinformation” against his country.
This week, the U.S. and EU worried about Serbia’s expanded military presence near the border with its former province. They demanded that Belgrade reduce the number of its troops stationed there.
On Saturday, Kosovo’s administration said it was keeping tabs on the whereabouts of Serbian troops from all three sides.
The gunfire on Sunday in northern Kosovo between highly armed Serb insurgents and Kosovo police personnel has ratcheted up tensions. This was a pivotal conflict because it followed Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia. Since then, NATO has increased its peacekeeping presence in the area.
Serbia claims it had nothing to do with the 30 or so men who shot at police and then barricaded themselves in a monastery in northern Kosovo. The ensuing gunfight lasted for several minutes, killing three militants.
Russia’s possible participation in the bloodshed in Kosovo is being investigated. Serbia is Russia’s closest ally in the European Union.
On Friday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that the United States was keeping a careful eye on a large deployment of Serbian troops near the border with Kosovo. According to him, the deployment is unprecedented in terms of the sophistication of the Serbian artillery, tanks, and motorized infantry formations that are part of it.
Vucic has repeatedly bolstered the combat readiness of Serbian forces on the Kosovo border in recent months. Weapons and other equipment have been purchased from Russia and China and used to support Serbia’s armed forces.
Serbia wants peace, the president stated Sunday, but we will continue to invest in defense.
Washington and Brussels have been seeking to negotiate a normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo out of fear of greater instability owing to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. However, despite a recent deal made through EU-mediated negotiations, the two sides have been unable to implement it.