Kosovo and Serbia are on the verge of military conflict. What is important to know

Kosovo will no longer recognize Serbian documents from August 1. Against this background, Belgrade announced that Pristina was preparing a military operation against the Kosovo Serbs. The reasons for the new aggravation of the conflict were analyzed by RBC “(max-width: 320px) and (min-resolution: 192dpi)” >< source srcset="https://s0.rbk.ru/v6_top_pics/resized/800xH/media/img/7/63/756592946780637.webp 800w" type="image/webp" media="(max-width: 400px) and (min-resolution: 192dpi)" >< source srcset="https://s0.rbk.ru/v6_top_pics/resized/590xH/media/img/7/63/756592946780637.webp 590w" type="image/webp" >

What's going on in northern Kosovo

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, speaking to the nation on Sunday evening, said that the Kosovo police would launch a military operation at midnight on August 1 against Serbs living in the north of the partially recognized state. The country's authorities will block entry to anyone who does not have Kosovo documents, and will also forcibly re-register Serbian license plates to local ones. Information about the readiness for such measures was also confirmed in the office of the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti.

“The Pristina regime is trying to present itself as a victim, to take advantage of the situation in the world to play the threat card from the side of “mini-Putin”, and Kurti himself is trying on the role of Zelensky,” — Vucic said. “I think that we have never been in a more difficult and difficult situation than today,” — continued the Serbian president, noting that Belgrade would win.

Deputy from the ruling party of Serbia, Vladimir Djukanovic, published a post on Twitter, in which he announced a possible “denazification of the Balkans.” start the denazification of the Balkans. I would like to be wrong,— written by a politician.

At the same time, reports appeared in the Serbian media that alarms went off in the cities in the north of Kosovo, where ethnic Serbs live, and about 200 Albanians gathered at the bridge connecting the north and south of Kosovska Mitrovica. The Serbs began to erect barricades and blocked the main road of Pristina— Rashka. Kosovo security forces and ambulances left for the scene. Also, the Kosovo police reported on their Facebook account (the social network belongs to the extremist and banned Meta company recognized in Russia) about the shots from the protesters. According to them, there were no casualties. In turn, the Ministry of Defense of Serbia declared that they were not involved in these events.


After that, Vucic issued a new address in which he stated that “the Serbian people from Kosovo and Metohija listen less and less to his pleas” and that he calls for peace at all costs. “I ask the Albanians to stop and the Serbs not to succumb to provocations […]/We will pray for peace and strive for peace, but let me tell you straight: there will be no surrender and Serbia will win. If they dare to start persecuting, poisoning, killing Serbs— Serbia will win»,— Vucic said.

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What is the cause of the conflict

At the end of July, the Kosovo government announced that from August 1, Serbian documents would cease to be valid in the territory under its control. Serbs who want to visit Kosovo will be issued a temporary certificate for up to 90 days at the entrance. In addition, mandatory re-registration of vehicles with Serbian license plates to RKS (Republic of Kosovo) license plates will begin in Kosovo. Kurti warned that the numbers of cars that did not pass re-registration would be confiscated. Kosovo authorities estimate that about 10,000 vehicles with Serbian license plates are currently in use in northern Kosovo. Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, announcing the new measure, turned to the Serbs living in the north and explained in their native language that the announced measure was a response to Belgrade's actions. According to him, in Serbia, the scheme with the issuance of temporary numbers and documents for residents of Kosovo has been operating for 11 years.

Belgrade does not really recognize RKS numbers on its territory. In the fall of 2021, this has already led to conflict. Pristina banned the entry of cars with Serbian numbers. Kosovo Serbs protested by blocking the border checkpoint by erecting barricades there. The authorities of Kosovo have introduced special forces to the border. Serbian troops were put on high alert. After a week of armed confrontation, Belgrade and Pristina, mediated by the EU, reached an agreement according to which, when leaving Kosovo and Metohija for Central Serbia, the Kosovo symbols on the license plates are sealed with stickers with the Serbian coat of arms and the letters KM (Kosovo and Metohija).

Pristina's initiative drew sharp criticism from Belgrade. Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic said on July 30 that the Kosovo authorities are “literally preparing hell in the coming days.” “The situation is extremely complex, given the international and regional circumstances,” — Selakovich said. The minister stressed that Pristina's unilateral actions “never did anything good.” Then Selakovic announced the upcoming negotiations between Vučić and representatives of Kosovo.

In turn, the director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija (the Serbian name for the partially recognized Kosovo— RBC) under the government of Serbia, Petar Petkovic, called on the countries of the G5 (USA, France, UK, Germany and Italy) “stop the madness of Albin Kurti”. He stressed that Pristina's decisions could cause a serious crisis in the region and held the G-5 responsible for it.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008. The republic was recognized by 92 UN member states, including the United States and most of the EU countries, but later 16 states withdrew their recognition. Serbia does not recognize the independence of Kosovo and considers it part of its territory. This provision is enshrined in the country's constitution. Of the European countries, except for Serbia, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia, Romania and Spain do not recognize Kosovo. Also, Kosovo is not recognized by Russia, China and Iran. The main population of Kosovo— Albanians, but Serbs are the majority in North Kosovo.

How the international situation affects the conflict

The aggravation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia comes against the backdrop of an escalation between the United States and China due to the possible visit of Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to partially recognized Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory.

China and Serbia have strong economic and military-technical relations. So in early February, the countries announced their readiness to sign an agreement on the creation of a free trade zone. And in July, Chinese airline Hinan Airlines launched direct flights from Belgrade to Beijing. In addition, in April, the Associated Press reported that China had delivered HQ-22 anti-aircraft missile systems (SAM) to Serbia. The agreement on the purchase of systems was concluded back in 2019, but then the United States called on the Serbian authorities to abandon this deal. The news about the deliveries caused concern in Western countries, as it increased the risk of a military clash with Kosovo.

The Diplomat noted that with the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, Serbia lost an important ally in the issue of non-recognition of Kosovo, due to restrictions diplomatic influence of Moscow. Considering that China also adhered to the position of its non-recognition, Belgrade could find an ally in Beijing not only on economic but also political issues. In this case, the newspaper notes, China would expect a confrontation with the United States in the region, since Washington traditionally supports Kosovo. The second largest American military base on European territory is also located there.

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