Trial of Kosovar Police Officers Begins

news 17-Jun-2023 Europe

Despite appeals from the EU and the US, Serbia has initiated proceedings against three Kosovar police officers who were arrested on Serbian territory. The Serbian prosecutor's office accused them of illegal possession of weapons.

The tensions between Serbia and Kosovo continue to escalate. After the arrest of three Kosovar police officers on Serbian territory, Serbian prosecutors have initiated proceedings. The prosecutor's office accused them of illegal possession of weapons and explosives, according to a report by the state-run Serbian broadcaster RTS.

Appeals to Serbia

The US, EU, and other Western countries appealed to both sides to take de-escalatory steps after the arrests. "They were either abducted or drifted into Serbia without intending to," said US special envoy for Southeast Europe, Gabriel Escobar. "They should be unconditionally released."

The NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR called on Pristina and Belgrade to "immediately reduce tensions and refrain from unilateral actions that could lead to further escalation." KFOR controls the border and border crossings between northern Kosovo and Serbia.

Different Accounts

Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti accused Serbia of abducting the police officers. He reiterated that the three officers were abducted on Kosovo's territory. Serbian special units of the police and army had penetrated deep into Kosovo's territory.

Kurti had already criticized KFOR on Thursday for not issuing an official statement on how to deal with the three police officers. In response to the arrests, he also announced strengthened border controls and restricted traffic from Serbia.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic denies the accusations and said instead that the Kosovar police officers were arrested on Serbian territory. He claimed that they were armed with submachine guns and that they were planning a terrorist attack. He described Kosovo as a "quasi-state."

Tensions Mounting for Months

At the end of May, violent Kosovo Serbs attacked NATO-led KFOR troops. Dozens were injured on both sides. The trigger for the conflict was the appointment of Kosovo-Albanian mayors who were elected in elections boycotted by Kosovo Serbs on Belgrade's instructions.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo's independence and demands the return of its former province. Almost exclusively ethnic Serbs live in northern Kosovo, while almost exclusively ethnic Albanians live in the rest of the country.

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