Serbia seeks Russia's support after deadly Kosovo monastery siege

Serbia seeks Russia's support after deadly Kosovo monastery siege
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic addressed the nation after a deadly shooting and monastery siege in northern Kosovo. / Serbian presidency
By bne IntelliNews September 26, 2023

Serbia has sought support from its long-standing ally Russia following allegations by Kosovo that it was behind two incidents in northern Kosovo on September 24.

On September 25, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic held talks with Russian ambassador Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko to address the repercussions of the shooting of a Kosovan police officer and the deadly confrontation at a Serbian Orthodox monastery in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo. 

Late on September 24, Kosovan police put an end to the standoff with armed individuals that stormed Banjska monastery in northern Kosovo, following a series of shootouts in which one Kosovo police officer and three Serbian attackers lost their lives.

According to the Kosovo authorities, one police officer and three of the approximately 30 gunmen lost their lives.

A statement on Vucic’s Instagram page said he had received the Russian ambassador on September 25. 

"Important conversation with the ambassador of the Russian Federation Alexander Bocan-Harchenko. Grateful that he listened to the pleas and requests of the Serbian side,” Vucic’s post read. 

“I informed Bocan-Harchenko about the fact that Kosovo and Metohija is being carried out brutal ethnic cleansing organised by [Kosovan Prime Minister] Albin Kurti with the support of the part of the international community.” 

Moscow has long backed Serbia by refusing to recognise Kosovo as an independent state, and has helped Belgrade to keep Kosovo out of the UN and other international organisations. 

“There is no doubt that yesterday’s bloodshed is a direct and immediate consequence of the course of the so-called “Prime Minister” A. Kurti to incite the conflict and clear the territory of the region from the Serbs,” said a Russian foreign ministry statement on September 25. 

“His attempts to create additional Western pressure on the Serbian leadership through escalating the situation in order to force Belgrade to recognise the “independence” of Kosovo are a constant play with fire, which, as we see, is too costly and brings the entire Balkan region to a dangerous brink.”

Earlier, top Kosovan politicians accused Serbia of being behind the attacks by the armed group. 

Kurti attributed the attack to a mercenary group which, he claimed, was politically and financially backed by the official Belgrade.

In response, Vucic accused Kurti of carrying out "brutal ethnic cleansing" , and denied any involvement in the attack/ Kosovo and Serbia have been engaged in a long-standing dispute regarding the rights of ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo that previously erupted into violence in May. 

The international community condemned the incidents on September 24. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it "unacceptable" and urged both Kosovo and Serbia to refrain from actions that could exacerbate tensions and to promptly resume EU-facilitated dialogue.

The latest incident has jeopardised the EU-mediated negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina aimed at enhancing their bilateral relations. These talks had already hit a standstill following the unsuccessful round of discussions on September 14.