Serbia has turned to its longtime ally Russia after Kosovo accused it of orchestrating an attack in an ethnic Serbian-majority region of northern Kosovo on Sunday.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić met with Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko on Monday to discuss the fallout from a deadly stand-off at a Serbian Orthodox monastery between ethnic Serb gunmen who stormed the village and Kosovo police. One policeman and three of the approximately 30 gunmen were killed, according to Kosovo forces.
“Afrim Bunjaku was killed during an attack on Kosovo policemen and on our state itself, by a group of highly armed and heavily equipped, professionally trained and planned, politically supported, materially financed and logistically supported by Serbia,” Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said during a ceremony in honor of the police officer who was killed.
In response, Vučić accused Kurti of carrying out “brutal ethnic cleansing” with support of part of the international community. Russia, which does not recognize Kosovo’s independence and has close ties with Serbia, said it was watching “closely” the “potentially dangerous” situation in Kosovo, stressing that there is a “biased attitude towards the Serbs.”
Vučić denied that Belgrade had any involvement in the attack, which he called “absolutely reprehensible,” and said that the gunmen were local Kosovo Serbs who “do not want to suffer under Kurti’s terror anymore.”
Kosovo and Serbia have long been at odds over the rights of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo’s north. Kosovo declared its independence in 2008 but Serbia refused to recognize it.
The international community was quick to condemn Sunday’s attack. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it “unacceptable” and asked Kosovo and Serbia to “avoid actions which could further inflame tensions and to immediately return to the EU-facilitated dialogue.”