Last Updated on December 27, 2022
Serbia has ordered its military to the “highest level of alert” and instructed troops to be ready for combat as tensions along the border with Kosovo continue to rise. Serbia’s Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic said Monday that he “ordered the full combat readiness” of troops along the border after Serbian President Alexander Aleksandar Vucic made the call.
The order was given to ensure that “all measures be taken to protect the Serbian people in Kosovo.”
Tensions between the two nations have remained tense since Kosovo, which is majority Albanian, broke away from Serbia in a bloody war following the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s. Kosovo — which sits on land that belonged to Serbia until the Ottoman Empire expelled Christians in the late 19th century — maintains a sizable Serbian minority that has enjoyed a sizable degree of autonomy.
Serbia and Russia have long refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence and have blocked the nation from entering the UN. The United States and its NATO allies have long offered military aid to Kosovo, and conducted a bombing campaign against the Serbian government over ethnic cleansing allegations.
Serbia has long portrayed the bombing campaign as unjust, citing ethnic killings of Serbs and destruction of Christian churches at the hands of Albanian Muslims that have been ignored by NATO. The alliance maintains a combat-ready military presence in Kosovo to this day, not far from the Serbian border.
The U.S. and over 100 nations have recognized Kosovo’s independence since 2008.
Tensions have accelerated in intensity since August after Serbs in northern Kosovo raised roadblocks in protest of regulations that will require all ethnic Serbs to register for government documents and car license plates issued by Pristina.
The mandate was ultimately postponed in order to ease hostilities, though tensions remain.
Recent unrest has been triggered by the arrest of a former Serbian police officer accused of attacking local law enforcement in Kosovo. Serbs and the Serbian government have claimed that the arrest was unjust and ethnically motivated, further alleging that Pristina has plans to arrest more ethnic Serbs living within their borders for political reasons.
Additional roadblocks were erected in northern Kosovo following the Serbian government’s military announcement on Tuesday. The U.S. and NATO have ordered the Serbian government to call for an end to the roadblocks, which it has thus far refused to do.
Serbs set up new barricades in Kosovo's north amid soaring tensions.
Protesters are demanding the release of a former Serb police officer before they remove the barricades.
Kosovo’s government has responded by asking NATO troops to remove the roadblocks. pic.twitter.com/W0e19nDIRO
— euronews (@euronews) December 27, 2022
“Kosovo cannot engage in dialogue with criminal gangs and freedom of movement should be restored,” the Kosovo government said Monday, according to a report from Reuters. “There should not be barricades on any road.”