Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic has dismissed claims that his country is increasing its military presence along the border with Kosovo, calling it a “campaign of lies” by the US and the EU. Vucic said that Serbia has not deployed any additional troops or weapons to the border area and that it only possesses “sophisticated weapons” that are a source of concern for its adversaries.
The allegations of a Serbian military buildup came after a deadly shootout last week between Kosovo police and a group of armed Serbs near a monastery in northern Kosovo. The incident left one police officer and three gunmen dead and sparked fears of a renewed conflict in the Balkans. Kosovo accused Serbia of supporting the attackers and also suggested that Russia might be involved. Serbia denied any role in the violence and accused Kosovo of provoking tensions.
The US and the EU expressed alarm over what they described as an “unprecedented” staging of advanced Serbian artillery, tanks, and infantry units on the border with Kosovo. They urged Belgrade to withdraw its forces and de-escalate the situation. NATO also announced that it would reinforce its peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, which has been deployed since 1999 when NATO intervened to end a war between Serbia and Kosovo.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia does not recognize it as a sovereign state. The two sides have been engaged in a dialogue mediated by the EU, but have made little progress on resolving their disputes.
The recent violence has raised doubts about the prospects of a peaceful settlement and increased the risk of further instability in the region.