PM Albin Kurti alleged Moscow is behind current tensions, but Belgrade says his evidence is fake
Moscow is to blame for the recent tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, the breakaway province’s ethnic Albanian prime minister, Albin Kurti, told the Guardian on Tuesday. Belgrade, however, debunked the number of joint exercises with Russia that Kurti cited as evidence for his claim.
“I think that the worry of our western partners and friends is the links of Belgrade with Moscow,” Kurti told the outlet, adding, “now that Russia got severely wounded in Ukraine… they have interest in spillover. They have interest in outsourcing their war-mongering drive to the Balkans where they have a client who’s in Belgrade,” the official added.
As proof, Kurti offered that Serbia and Russia carried out 104 joint military exercises in 2021, which Belgrade officially refuted later in the day. “This is a vicious lie,” said Nemanja Starovic, state secretary at the Serbian Defense Ministry, noting that there were only 21 military exercises that year, of which 17 were with NATO member states and only four with Russia.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic also argued the conflict in Ukraine figured into the Kosovo tensions, but blamed the West instead. “Obviously someone thinks it is time to pressure Serbia because it’s not certain the side they are backing will win in Ukraine, as it may have seemed three months ago, and so [Russian President Vladimir] Putin couldn’t invoke the Kosovo precedent,” he told RTS.
NATO took control of Kosovo in 1999, after bombing Serbia on behalf of ethnic Albanian separatists. The province’s provisional government declared independence in 2008, which Belgrade has refused to recognize. Russia has backed the Serbian position, pointing to the UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The US and its allies recently “categorically” opposed Belgrade’s request to return some police to the province, even though the resolution allows it.
Kurti also said that removing the roadblocks – set up by local Serbs when he sent heavily armed police into their communities – might not happen without casualties. He claimed they were an attempt to “partition” the province, and that Pristina “cannot allow this violation of lawfulness and constitutionality forever.”
The most recent unrest began at the end of July, when Kurti attempted to outlaw Serbian license plates and ID cards. After even the EU admitted he was acting against international agreements, he backtracked. Pristina then sent heavily armed police into Serb-majority areas and replaced Serb local councils with unelected ethnic Albanians.