Oliver Ivanovic, the leader of the ethnic Serb political party Citizens’ Initiative Freedom, Democracy, Justice in Kosovo, was killed in front of the entrance of his party’s offices on the morning of January 16.
His murder will most likely raise tensions between Belgrade and Pristina, which have been growing in recent months especially after Ramush Haradinaj, a former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), became prime minister of Kosovo. Efforts by Kosovan politicians to scrap a new court tasked with investigating alleged war crimes by former KLA fighters have also raised tensions and set Pristina on a collision course with the US and EU.
Ivanovic was shot four times and taken to hospital where he died without regaining consciousness, his lawyer Nebojsa Vlajic said. It is not yet known who was responsible for the shooting.
“The best doctors of Mitrovica had tried reanimation, even professors from Belgrade who were accidentally here, but none could do anything,” Vlajic told Kosovan news portal KoSSev.
Ivanovic was a prominent citizen in the largest town in northern Kosovo, known as Mitrovica by ethnic Albanians and Kosovska Mitrovica by ethnic Serbs. While representing the Serb community in the divided town, he had solid relations with both Albanians and Serbs, and spoke Albanian fluently.
There has not yet been any official comment from either Pristina or Belgrade, but ordinary citizens have expressed their shock at Ivanovic’s death in a flood of posts on his Facebook page.
"Sadness to the sky!" posted Natasa Simic, while another commenter, Aleksandra Ljumovic, wrote "Fury in silence. silence."
The posts also reveal that many Serbs living in Kosovo are concerned for their own safety. "Serbia is defeated today and it should be said openly that safety of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija has never been guaranteed by anything,” wrote Olivera Olja Petrovic.
According to broadcaster N1, the northern part of Mitrovica, where there is a predominantly Serb population, has been blocked by Kosovan police forces who are looking for the person who shot Ivanovic. Entrance to his party’s premises has been blocked.
Ivanovic was born in April 1953 in the Kosovan village of Rznic. He served as the state secretary of the Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija from 2008 to 2012.
Ivanovic was allegedly the leader of a paramilitary police unit during the armed conflict in Kosovo in 1999. He was suspected of committing war crimes against the civilian population during this time and was sentenced to nine years in prison in January 2016, after being found guilty. However, the appeals court in Pristina later decided to annul the guilty verdict passed against Ivanovic and ordered a retrial after which he was placed under house arrest, from which he was later released.