Soldiers of the US contingent of the NATO-led international peacekeeping Kosovo Force (KFOR) take positions in front of the municipality building in Leposavic, Kosovo, June 2, 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI

Kosovo Serbs Protest Arrests of Serbs Suspected of Attacking Journalists

Locals in Serb-majority northern Kosovo, headed by medical workers, marched in protest on Monday against recent arrests of Serbs suspected of attacking Kosovo media staff.

Hundreds of local in Serb-majority nothern Kosovo, led by medical workers, marched from North Mitrovica to Zvecan – where workers from the Trepca mine joined them – in protest against recent arrests of people suspected of attacks against Kosovo journalists, Serbian-language Kosovo media outlet Kossev reported.

Staff of the Clinical Hospital Centre in the city in white coats, led by the director, Zlatan Elek, as well as the former mayor of Zvecan, also a doctor, Dragisa Milovic, were in the front rows.

Medics carried banners reading: “Stop [Kosovo PM Albin] Kurti’s terror”, “Who’s next?” and: “All over the world doctors are heroes, but for Pristina, criminals”.

Among the marchers were the leaders of the Belgrade-backed Serb party in Kosovo, Srpska Lista, Goran Rakic and Igor Simic.

“On behalf of the Serbian people, we have been appealing for peace for months, and that has not been there for a long time for the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, so the simple question is whether Kurti is really stronger than KFOR, the EU, the US, the Quint, the UN, or is someone still supporting this persecution of all Serbs,” a Srpska Lista press release on Monday said.

At another protest in Leposavic, a Serb-majority muncipality in northern Kosovo, relatives of the recently arrested Serbs and representatives of the local government and civil society addressed a crowd. All of them demanded the release of all those arrested.

The mother of one of those arrested, N.V., from Leposavic, who the Kosovo authorities have accused of attacking journalists, addressed the crowd, saying that her son was not guilty, and he was at a protest on May 29 to peacefully express his dissatisfaction.

Earlier on Monday, Kosovo Police announced that an ethnic Serb U.V., a resident of Leposavic,  was arrested on suspicion of being “involved in an attack of media/journalists,” on June 16.

Nebojsa Vlajic, lawyer for U.V, told Kossev that his client has nothing to do with the violence against journalists.

“On those videos, you can either see some other faces, or it’s simply impossible to see who it is. UV works in that street, he was at work at MTS [Serbian state-own mobile operator] and there is nothing else that connects him with that place or event,”  Vlajic said.

Serbia’s Office for Kosovo said he is a Serbian student from Leposavic who was arrested in civilian clothes while going to work.

Police suspect the young man of involvement in the attack on journalists in Kosovo. But Serbia’s state mobile company, Telekom Srbija, said he was an employee of the company and was “abducted around 7:30 a.m. near Leposavic traveling to work.”

“We are not talking about any criminal but a 28-year-old guy who calmly went to work, knowing that he was not guilty of anything,” the Office for Kosovo stated.

The office assessed it as a “continuation of the torture” of Prime Minister Kurti, who “uses all means to provoke a conflict with the peaceful Serbian people”.

On June 16, some Kosovo journalists were attacked by masked protesters in Leposavic.

Kosovo Police announced on June 17 that they had arrested an ethnic Serb, D.S., suspected of an earlier attack against journalists, on May 31, in Zvecan.

On Friday, Kosovo Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla shared photos of someone he claims to be Nemanja Vlaskovic, arrested for an attack against a BIRN crew in Leposavic on May 29, 2023.

Vlaskovic’s lawyer, however, has claimed that his client is not in the photo shared by Svecla.

The international community has pressured both Kosovo and Serbia to de-escalate the situation in the restive Serb-majority north.

EU High Representative Josep Borrell said he had invited Kosovo PM Kurti and Serbian President Alaksandar Vucic to return to the negotiating table.

European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said that neither Vucic nor Kurti has confirmed their attandance at the meeting in Brussels, so the exact date has not been determined, but added that the EU expects “a more reasonable attitude from the partners who say they want to join the EU”.

Kurti on Monday said he will give a definite answer on participation, but only after the head of the Liaison Office in Belgrade visits “three of our police officers who are being held hostage in Serbia as revenge for the fight against organised crime and corruption in Kosovo”.

The three Kosovo police officers were seized on June 14 in an action that Kosovo authorities have called “kidnapping”. Serbian authorities said they were arrested inside Serbia but Kosovo’s government claims they were arrested inside Kosovo. A judge in Kraljevo, Serbia, meanwhile ordered the detention of all three suspects on Friday.

Since May 26 local Serbs have been protesting against newly elected mayors in elections that they boycotted en masse.

On May 29, Serb protesters violently clashed with KFOR soldiers, where 30 soldiers and around 50 protesters were injured.

Around 30 attacks against journalists have been recorded by the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, with the latest last Friday.

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19 June 2023 - 17:57

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