Serbian military units threaten territorial integrity of Kosovo, international military presence in country, says government.
The Kosovo government announced Saturday it requested that Serbia immediately withdraw all military units from the Kosovo border.
“The military units of the Serbian army Friday deployed their military and gendarmerie capacities to 48 forward operating bases located along the border line of the Republic of Kosovo, several kilometers deep within Serbian territory. This deployment also includes anti-aircraft systems and heavy artillery,” the government said in a statement.
It argued that the deployment threatens the territorial integrity of Kosovo and the international military presence in the country.
“We have expressed our concern many times about the existence of these 48 bases of the Serbian army and gendarmerie (on the borderline) and emphasized that these bases serve to support the already proven fact of a possible military attack against the Republic of Kosovo. We call on Serbian institutions and (Serbian) President (Aleksandar) Vucic to immediately withdraw all military units from the Kosovo borderline and to close and demilitarize 28 forward military bases and 20 gendarmerie bases that pose a permanent threat to our country,” it said.
Kosovo police announced it seized weapons Saturday after searches were carried out on the escape route used by a Serbian armed group that attacked and fought with police in Kosovo on Sept. 24.
Rocket launchers, heavy weapons and military equipment such as bulletproof vests were among the items that were seized.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan expressed concerns about Serbian military activity on the Kosovo border in a telephone call Friday with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti.
A fight broke out last Sunday in the village of Banjska in northern Kosovo — a region with a large ethnic Serb population — near the Serbian border, where a gunfight left a police officer dead and another injured.
The area has been the scene of unrest since April, when local ethnic Serbs boycotted elections in northern Kosovo, followed by protests against the election of ethnic Albanian mayors.
The last week has seen a “large Serbian military deployment along the border with Kosovo” including advanced artillery, tanks, and mechanized infantry unit, according to the US National Security Council, whose spokesman called the deployment “a very destabilizing development.”
Kosovo called on Serbia to pull back its troops Saturday, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, wrote Friday on X after an alliance meeting: “NATO Allies met today & expressed deep concern about tensions in northern Kosovo. NATO’s KFOR mission will always take the necessary actions to maintain a safe & secure environment & freedom of movement for all.”
Albanians are by far the largest ethnic group in Kosovo, followed by Serbs, with about half living in the country’s north.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and gained recognition from many countries, including Türkiye. But Belgrade has never recognized Kosovo and claims that its territory is still part of Serbia.