Russia has accused “radical” Kosovo of trying to displace Serbs from the northern Balkan country with new border rules that have reignited tensions.
Kosovo police closed two border crossing points with Serbia on Sunday after receiving gunfire and ethnic Serbs blocked roads at two border crossing points. Ethnic Serbs, who make up the majority of the population there, have protested Pristina’s demands that they obtain temporary documents and license plates when visiting Kosovo – a move Pristina defends as being reciprocal to that of Belgrade.
Kosovo agreed to delay implementation of the plan for a month until September 1 after protests and talks with EU and US ambassadors.
The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Kosovo of having taken “one more step towards the expulsion of the Serb population from Kosovo”. [and] the ousting of Kosovo Serb institutions that protect the rights of Serb residents from the arbitrary regime of Pristina radicals.
“Kosovar leaders know that the Serbs will not be indifferent to a direct attack on their freedoms, and they are deliberately aggravating it in order to launch a violent scenario,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on Sunday.
Zakharova said the tensions between Serbia and Kosovo served as “further proof of the failure of the EU mediation mission”.
EU-led talks launched in 2011 have so far failed to normalize relations between Belgrade and Pristina.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said earlier on Sunday that “Serbia will win” if the Serbs are attacked, noting that “the atmosphere has been brought to a boil”.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti accused Vucic of sparking “unrest” and called on Monday for the barricades to be removed.
More than 100 countries, with the exception of Serbia and Russia, recognize the independence of Kosovo.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008, a decade after NATO-led bombings ended a war between neighbours.
Bound by culture and the Orthodox Church, the Balkan state sits within Russia’s former sphere of influence in ex-communist Europe, although the EU is by far the biggest foreign investor.