Tensions flare up on the Kosovo-Serbia border, amid protests and shootings

“We will pray for peace and seek peace, but there will be no surrender and Serbia will win,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday at a press conference. He continued, “If they dare to persecute, mistreat and kill the Serbs, then Serbia will win,” adding later, “We have never been in a more difficult and complicated situation than today.”

Mr. Vucic, who held a high-level meeting of security and military officials on Sunday night, said the Kosovo government was trying to cast him in the same light as President Vladimir Putin by blaming the unrest on Serbia’s close relationship with Russia. , a fellow Christian nation Slavic and Orthodox.

Vucic, the Kosovo leader, said during Sunday’s press conference, was trying to capitalize on the global mood by predicting that “the big Putin gave the orders to the little Putin, so the new Zelensky, in the form of Albin Kurti, would be the savior and the fight against the great Serbian hegemony.”

Vladimir Djukanovic, a Serbian member of parliament from the ruling Vucic party, also linked the border dispute to the war in Ukraine, tweeting: “It seems to me that Serbia will have to start de-Nazifying the Balkans,” an ominous reference to Russia’s justification for invading Ukraine.

Serbia, a candidate to join the European Union, has maintained close relations with Moscow and has not joined Western sanctions against Russia, although it voted in favor of a United Nations resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Belgrade and Moscow share animosity toward the military alliance of NATO over its bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, when Mr. Vucic was the spokesman for Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

NATO still maintains a peacekeeping presence in Kosovo, with a strength of about 3,700 soldiers. In a press release, NATO said its force on the ground was “ready to intervene if stability is threatened.”

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