Russian-linked Serbian monarchists and a British far-right organisation have been seeking to equip mystery groups in north Kosovo in order to resist what they believe will be an attack on Serbs by Kosovo Albanians.
High above the flashpoint town of Mitrovica, to the north of the Ibar river that divides Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo, stands the modern Sveti Dimitrije church.
On a September night this year, the leader of an obscure Serb pro-monarchy group, the Order of the Dragon, posed for a photograph on the hilltop with an aid package for the area’s Serb population: tactical vests, drone and military fatigues.
Dejan Damnjanovic, the Order’s leader, posted the photo on his Facebook page with a warning that “action instead of demagogy” was needed in preparation for the outcome of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s proposed ‘national discussion’ on the future of Kosovo.
While Damnjanovic suggested that he posted the photograph publicly in order to deliver a message, the Order’s representative in Kosovo told BIRN that the equipment was intended to be used in a game called ‘airsoft’, which involves replica military equipment.
The photograph was removed from his profile as BIRN went to press.
But the picture nonetheless raises questions about the activities of nationalist and far-right groups in this volatile region, particularly as a probe by BIRN has revealed a constellation of loosely linked groups which claim that they are attempting to equip and prepare Kosovo Serbs with drones, communication equipment and links to powerful Russians in order to resist an attack. Weapons have, however, not been referenced.
These groups believe that an offensive by Kosovo Albanians on the area’s ethnic Serb enclaves is looming, although no evidence exists that any such operation is planned.
This wide network of far-right groups and activists gravitates around the Belgrade-based Order of the Dragon, named after 15th Century Christian knights who fought the Ottoman Empire, and which in the past has made regular deliveries to Kosovo Serb families of warm clothes, food and other household goods.