Tensions on Kosovo-Serbian border escalate amid protests and shootings

“We will pray for peace and strive for peace, but there will be no surrender and Serbia will win,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said at a press conference on Sunday. “If they dare to persecute, mistreat and kill Serbs, Serbia will win,” he continued, adding later: “We have never been in a more difficult and difficult situation than today.”

mr. Vučić, who convened a high-level meeting of security and military officials on Sunday evening, said the Kosovo government tried to portray him in the same light as President Vladimir Putin, blaming the unrest on Serbia’s close relationship with Russia, brotherly Slavic and Orthodox people.

Kosovo’s leader, Mr. Vučić, said during a Sunday press conference that he was trying to capitalize on the global mood, saying that “big Putin gave orders to little Putin, so the new Zelensky in the form of Albin Kurti will be the savior and will fight against the great Serbian hegemony.”

Vladimir Đukanović, Serbian MP for Vučić’s ruling party, also linked the border spat to the war in Ukraine, tweeting: “I think Serbia will be forced to start denazifying the Balkans,” an ominous reference to Russia’s justification for invading Ukraine.

Serbia, a candidate for EU membership, supported maintains close ties with Moscow and has not joined Western sanctions on Russia, although he voted in favor UN resolution condemning the Russian invasion or Ukraine. Belgrade and Moscow share a dislike for the NATO military alliance because of its bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, when Mr. Vučić was the spokesman for Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.

NATO continues to maintain a peacekeeping presence in Kosovo with some 3,700 troops. A NATO press release said its forces on the ground were “ready to intervene if stability is threatened.”