Kosovo closes its biggest border crossing


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Kosovo decided on Wednesday to close its largest border crossing with Serbia, as tensions continue to rise between the two countries. On the Serbian side, the border has also been blocked by demonstrators, which involve the Serbian minority in the north.

The escalation of tensions continues. Kosovo decided on Wednesday, December 28, to close its largest border crossing with Serbia, while on the other side, Serb demonstrators block the border in support of the Serbian minority in the north.

The Serb minority in the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica reinforced new barricades on Tuesday, hours after Serbia said it had placed its army on high alert.

The Kosovo Foreign Ministry announced on its Facebook page that the Merdare crossing, the most important for road freight transport, had been closed since midnight.

“If you have already entered Serbia, you must use other border posts (…) or go through North Macedonia,” he added.

Since December 10, when the Serbs in northern Kosovo, supported by Belgrade, set up numerous barricades in Mitrovica and its surroundings, two border crossings have been closed and three remain open.

Kremlin support

The Serbian minority in the north is calling in particular for the release of a former Serbian policeman accused of attacking police officers on duty during previous demonstrations.

The Kosovar Interior Minister, Xhelal Sveçla, has also accused Serbia of seeking to destabilize Kosovo with Russia by encouraging the protest movement.

For its part, the Kremlin said on Wednesday it supported Serbia’s attempts to protect the Serb minority in northern Kosovo, but denied Pristina’s accusation that Russia was stoking tensions in the Balkans.

“Serbia is a sovereign country and it is absolutely wrong to seek destructive Russian influence here,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

About 50,000 Serbs live in the northern part of Kosovo and refuse to recognize the Pristina government or the Kosovar state. They refer to Belgrade as their capital.

The friction of recent weeks between the two communities has arisen from the desire of the authorities in Pristina to demand the withdrawal of Serbian license plates dating from before the 1998-1999 Kosovo war, which led to independence.

>> To read: Kosovo-Serbia: why this renewed tension?

With Reuters

Europe 1

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