Serb List official takes responsibility for Banjska violence in Kosovo

Serb List official takes responsibility for Banjska violence in Kosovo
The armed group led by Milan Radoicic killed a Kosovan police officer then forced their way into a local monastery leading to a standoff with security forces. / Kosovan government
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje September 30, 2023

Milan Radoicic, deputy head of the main party of Serbs in Kosovo, the Serb List, assumed full responsibility on September 29 for the recent deadly clashes in the village of Banjska in northern Kosovo, asserting that he acted alone without informing Belgrade.

On September 24, Kosovo media reported that a Kosovar police officer lost his life, and another border policeman was injured in a gunfire exchange in the predominantly ethnically Serbian northern region of the country. The authorities in Kosovo have classified this event as a terrorist attack with alleged support from the official authorities in Belgrade, as stated by the police.

Three Serbs, originally from the north of Kosovo, lost their lives during the Kosovo police operation.

Radoicic's statement was conveyed to the media by his lawyer, Goran Petronijevic, as reported by N1 Srbija.

In the written statement, Radoicic announced his resignation from the position of deputy president of the Serb List. He also expressed readiness to cooperate with the competent authorities of Serbia. Radoicic said that the attack has nothing to do with his previous political involvement and that he acted independently, without assistance or prior notification to the Belgrade authorities, citing differences in viewpoints.

“I didn't inform anyone from the Serbian authorities or local structures about this, nor did I get any help from them, because by then we already had differences of opinion," according to his written statement.

The motive behind the return of Radoicic and his compatriots to Kosovo was to bolster resistance against the regime of Kosovo’s PM Albin Kurti.

"I want to inform the public that on September 24, I, along with my compatriots, arrived in northern Kosovo and Metohija, specifically in the Banjska region," according to the statement.

Radoicic said: "I arranged all logistical preparations personally for the defense of the Serbian people against the occupiers. This action is unrelated to my prior political engagements."

Radoicic said that the Kosovo police officer's death resulted from an accidental explosion, not a bullet, and subsequently escalated tensions, leading to a fierce clash between the opposing sides.

"We are not terrorists, but fighters for the freedom of our own people." Radoicic said in the statement.

His lawyer Petronijevic said he believed that Radoicic bore no responsibility, arguing that the individuals he organised were defending their country to thwart acts of terror.

When asked about the mission's objective, Petronijevic deferred to Radojcic's statement, stating he lacked the authority or information to expound on it.

"Kosovo and Metohija are an integral part of Serbia, and in terms of the UN Resolution 1244, it is within the state of Serbia. In the north of Kosovo and Metohija, there are armed special units of the Kosovo police, which, according to the Brussels agreement, cannot stay there. Therefore, if anyone was illegally in the north of Kosovo, it was Kurti's armed individuals," the statement argued.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade does not recognise it as a separate country, despite efforts by the EU to normalise relations between Belgrade and Pristina. 

Radoicic's lawyer held the news conference after the Kosovo police raided several locations in northern Kosovo on September 29 following the armed attack in Banjska on Sunday, including Radoicic's residence in Ujman.

Kosovan Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla has published a video of the Kosovo police raid on the Radoicic villa.

"The terrorist attack that the Kosovo police faced in the Banjska village in Zvecan will be investigated in detail and to the end,” Svecla said.

In the meantime, Nato has granted approval for the deployment of extra troops to Kosovo in response to the ongoing security concerns.

“Since May, we have enhanced KFOR’s presence and posture. Only yesterday the North Atlantic Council authorised additional forces to address the current situation."

"We will always continue to make sure that our Commander has the resources and flexibility necessary for KFOR to fulfil its mandate. We stand ready to make further adjustments to KFOR’s posture as required,” Nato said in a statement on September 29.