Monday, June 17, 2024

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    Serbia and Russia Confer Amid Kosovo Tensions Over Monastery Attack

    Allegations and Accusations Fly as Kosovo Blames Serbia for Monastery Standoff

    In the wake of a deadly standoff at a Serbian Orthodox monastery in northern Kosovo, tensions have escalated between Kosovo and Serbia. Kosovo has accused Serbia of orchestrating an attack in an ethnic Serbian-majority region, prompting Serbia to turn to its longstanding ally, Russia, for support.

    The confrontation unfolded when ethnic Serb gunmen stormed a village in northern Kosovo, resulting in a deadly stand-off with Kosovo police. One policeman and three of the approximately 30 gunmen were killed, according to Kosovo forces. Kosovo’s leadership declared a day of mourning and labeled the incident a terrorist attack, squarely placing blame on Serbia for destabilizing their country.

    Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti described the attack as the work of a highly armed, professionally trained group, politically supported, materially financed, and logistically backed by Serbia. He emphasized that the attack aimed not only at Kosovo police but also at their nation itself.

    In response, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić vehemently denied Belgrade’s involvement in the attack. He characterized the incident as “absolutely reprehensible” and asserted that the gunmen were local Kosovo Serbs who sought to escape what he called “Kurti’s terror.” He accused Kurti of carrying out “brutal ethnic cleansing” with support from a part of the international community.

    Russia, which maintains close ties with Serbia and does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, expressed deep concern over the situation in Kosovo. The Russian Ambassador, Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko, held talks with President Vučić to discuss the fallout from the monastery standoff. Russia emphasized that there was a “biased attitude towards the Serbs” and expressed close monitoring of the “potentially dangerous” situation in Kosovo.

    Kosovo and Serbia have long been at odds over the rights of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo’s northern regions. While Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, Serbia has consistently refused to recognize it.

    The international community swiftly condemned Sunday’s attack. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken termed it “unacceptable” and called upon Kosovo and Serbia to refrain from actions that could further escalate tensions. He also urged them to return to the EU-facilitated dialogue.

    As authorities continue the search for the remaining gunmen, Kosovan forces sealed off the village of Banjska and announced the recovery of the body of a fourth attacker along with a significant cache of arms. The incident has added another layer of complexity to the already delicate relations between Kosovo and Serbia, with potential ramifications for the broader region.

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