- Roadblocks in Mitrovica North and Rudare removed (RFE/Koha)
- Interior Minister: Police operation not directed against any nationality (media)
- Kosovo President statement on Wednesday’s police operations (media)
- US Embassy: Attacks on police, media and civilians, unacceptable (media)
- German Ambassador reacts to pressure and attacks against journalists (media)
- Rakic’s remarks about “crystal night” spark reactions (media)
- NATO comments on situation in the north (Telegrafi)
- Dalipi to Borrell: No one should portray police action as a political or ethnic problem (media)
- EP Rapporteur for Kosovo reacts to Borrell’s statements (media)
- Several journalists attacked during riots in Mitrovica (europeanjournalists.org)
- EFJ secretary reacts to reports of journalists attacked in north (Kallxo/media)
- Video published of moment when explosive device thrown near reporter (media)
- The Radio Free Europe team unable to work in the north (RFE)
- Violence in North Kosovo draws conflicting reactions (BIRN)
- Osmani to represent Kosovo at UN Security Council session (Koha)
- Kandic says it is not safe to sit with Petkovic at the negotiating table (RTK)
- Vucic: If they start violence, you protect the people; we’ll be with you (media)
- Dacic: War or peace, the international community to decide (Indeksonline)
- Djuric: Kurti’s attempts to demonstrate power before elections (media)
- Grenell: Biden must not be silent; this is dangerous and ruthless (media)
- UNS: To enable uninterrupted work of journalists in the north Kosovo (N1)
- Reactions of parties in Serbia to the Kosovo police operation (N1)
Roadblocks in Mitrovica North and Rudare removed (RFE/Koha)
Blockades on the Prishtina – Rashka motorway, in the village of Rudare in Zvecan municipality, and blockades in the Bosniak Mahalla in Mitrovica North, were removed on Wednesday evening, Radio Free Europe and Koha report. The blockades were set up during the day by local Serbs in opposition to an anti-smuggling operation by Kosovo Police and Customs. Media outlets also reported that the situation in the north of Kosovo on Wednesday evening was quiet.
Interior Minister: Police operation not directed against any nationality (media)
Kosovo’s Minister of Interior Affairs, Xhelal Svecla, told a press conference in Prishtina on Wednesday the Kosovo Police and Customs operation against the smuggling of goods is part of the fight of Kosovo authorities against smuggling and tax evasion. He said that Kosovo is committed to a stable and functional state and that no one can be above the law or a shield of crime.
“Today’s operation in four different regions was successful in confiscating goods and arresting people involved in their smuggling. This action is part of the fight against organised crime throughout the territory of Kosovo and is in no way directed against citizens or certain locations,” Svecla said.
Svecla said that in the northern municipalities today there was extreme violence by “criminal structures” which according to him can no longer be tolerated. “This operation is not directed against any nationality. This operation is directed against criminals who smuggled goods illegally in Kosovo. The prosecutor of the case is Serbian, the pre-trial judge is Serbian, the members of the Rapid Reaction Unit in Mitrovica are mainly Serb, the majority of those arrested are Albanians, and most of those at large are Albanians,” he said. “An allied service initiated this case and at the same time we have coordinated with our closest international associates. This is not an activity against the Serb community in Kosovo”.
Svecla said that eight people were arrested during the police operation today and that another ten suspects are at large. Most of them are Albanian.
Asked to comment on EU High Representative Borrell’s statement that the police operation was unilateral, Svecla said that kind of approach is wrong. “As far as Borrell’s remarks are concerned, we carry out operations against smuggling and fiscal evasion, almost every day. Yesterday, the Kosovo Police carried out an exceptional operation, arresting a person that forged stamps. He is of Turkish nationality. Now where we supposed to notify someone or coordinate about this operation. Today’s operation was purely against smuggling and this is a wound that is damaging the state and the poor citizens of Kosovo every day. He called it a unilateral action. There were the police, the customs and the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, and KFOR was previously informed about the operation. I don’t know who he was talking about. If someone thinks that we need to coordinate with Belgrade before we strike against those that Belgrade protects in their criminal activities, then I think that this is a wrong approach,” Svecla said.
At the same press conference, Kosovo Police Director, Sabedin Mehmeti, said that protesters in the north threw gas bombs, hand grenades, shock bombs and fired from different weapons against the police officers. He said 10 police officers were injured during the operation.
Mehmeti said that the initial plan was to search 26 locations in Kosovo but that the operation could not completed in eight locations in Mitrovica North and Zvecan. “It is believed that there was a leak of information about the operation. This is something that we are investigating,” he said. According to Mehmet, the police anti-smuggling operation was being prepared for a year now.
Kosovo President statement on Wednesday’s police operations (media)
Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani wrote in a Twitter post on Wednesday that the fight against organized crime is non-negotiable and must be uncompromising. “Kosovo Police & Customs Authorities carried out a legitimate action against organized crime groups involved in smuggling, in different locations around the Republic of Kosovo. Crime has no ethnicity and falsely linking today’s action with specific ethnic groups is deeply irresponsible as it will only serve to increase tensions. Anyone that is against this action is siding with the organized crime and is against EU rule of law values,” Osmani wrote.
In another post on Twitter, Osmani strongly condemned the attacks on journalists reporting from the North of Kosovo. “This is yet another demonstration of dangers posed by Serbia’s illegal & violent structures. Journalism is the foundation of a free & democratic nation. Journalists need to work in a safe environment,” she said.
US Embassy: Attacks on police, media and civilians, unacceptable (media)
A spokesman for the United States Embassy in Prishtina told the media on Wednesday that Washington is concerned with the manner of opposition to the efforts of Kosovo institutions to enforce law and order throughout the territory of Kosovo. “The United States is concerned with the response to today’s law enforcement actions in the territory of Kosovo. The violence, be it directed against the authorities, the media, or the citizens, is unacceptable and must be investigated and prosecuted until the full implementation of the law. We call for calmness,” the spokesperson said.
German Ambassador reacts to pressure and attacks against journalists (media)
German Ambassador to Kosovo, Jorn Rohde, said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that he is concerned about the reported pressure and attacks against journalists in the north on Wednesday. “It is important that they can do their job! All violence is unacceptable and should be investigated,” he tweeted.
Rakic’s remarks about “crystal night” spark reactions (media)
The German Ambassador to Kosovo, Jörn Rohde, took to Twitter to react to a statement by Serbian List leader and Minister in the Kosovo Government, Goran Rakic, who said that Wednesday’s police operation in the north was a “crystal night”. Rohde said in his post: “Stop! The comparison of today’s police action with the “crystal night” is unacceptable. Such comparisons contribute towards narratives of Holocaust distortion and denial. #ProtecttheFacts”. Rohde’s tweet was later retweeted by the United States Embassy in Prishtina.
Imer Mushkolaj, a political commentator, called for the dismissal of Goran Rakic, saying that with his positions and actions Rakic is carrying out “an aggression against the Constitution and the state of Kosovo”.
NATO comments on situation in the north (Telegrafi)
NATO has commented to the situation in the north saying in a written reply to Telegrafi news website that they are in continuous contact with relevant institutions in Kosovo and that the police carried out a law enforcement operation.
“The Kosovo Police is conducting an operation for law enforcement in all of Kosovo. NATO-led mission KFOR is in continuous contact with relevant institutions in Kosovo and representatives of the International Community and remains fully focused on the daily implementation of its UN derived mandate – based on UN Security Council resolution 1244 of 1999 – to continue providing a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all communities living in Kosovo,” NATO said.
Dalipi to Borrell: No one should portray police action as a political or ethnic problem (media)
Luan Dalipi, chief of staff to Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti, reacted to the statement made by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell who said that “unilateral and uncoordinated actions that endanger stability are unacceptable.”
Thanking Borrell for his concern, Dalipi responded in a series of tweets: “It is important not to portray the unfortunate violence instigated by few hooligans orchestrated by Belgrade as some inter-ethnic problem between Albanian and Serb citizens in Kosova.
“Today’s action by Kosova’s Police were only targeted against crime and contraband smuggling in four Kosovar municipalities, one of which happens to be in the northern part of Kosova (where few criminals instigated the violence).
“So, no one, and especially no high-level EU official, should try to make this a political or ethnic problem, and bilateral coordination is not relevant in this case, because stopping crime and illegal trading is a typical competency of a sovereign country.
“Fyi, the prosecutor who authorized the action is a Serb, the judge is a Serb, and most of the police people in North Mitrovica municipality are Serb. 6 Albanians, 1 Serb, 1 Bosniak arrested. 6 policemen were hurt, one of which a Serb. Crime and contraband have no ethnicity.”
Borrell said in his statement that “the violent incidents in the north of Kosovo need to stop immediately.” “Unilateral and uncoordinated actions that endanger stability are unacceptable. All open issues must be addressed through the EU-facilitated Dialogue. We are in contact with Belgrade and Pristina,” he wrote on Twitter.
Vlora Citaku, Kosovo’s former ambassador to the United States, posted a video on Twitter of a reporter from Kanal 10 being attacked with an explosive device in the north. “Care to react Mr.@JosepBorrellF?” Citaku wrote.
EP Rapporteur for Kosovo reacts to Borrell’s statements (media)
The European Parliament Rapporteur for Kosovo, Viola von Cramon, took to Twitter on Wednesday to react to EU High Representative Josep Borrell’s remarks about the Kosovo Police operation in the north. Von Cramon tweeted: “Please criticize countries where rule of law is not implemented. The EU should support countries fighting organised crime and corruption. State institutions doing their job deserve our full respect. The EU-facilitated Dialogue is not about daily police operations.”
Several journalists attacked during riots in Mitrovica (europeanjournalists.org)
Tensions increased in the Northern part of Kosovo after police undertook an anti-smuggling operation in Mitrovica on 13 October. Several journalists covering the riots, as well as citizens and police officers, were attacked by protesters. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined its affiliates in Kosovo AGK in condemning all violent attacks against journalists and calling on the authorities to ensure their protection.
During the clashes, journalists from the local Kosovo Serb language media, KoSSev, reported threats and attacks against them, after which they decided to remove the journalists from the field. In particular, Ivan Mitic was approached by protesters on several occasions and prevented from filming events on the street under the threat that they would erase the footage and confiscate his phone.
Other journalists working for T7, Klan Kosova, RTV Dukagjini, ATV, Kanal 10 and BIRN were attacked and obstructed while performing their duties. The BIRN team reported that they were chased by protesters and had Molotov cocktails thrown at them. A video of a Kanal 10 live broadcast shows an explosive device thrown a few meters away from the journalist.
According to media reports, several journalists of different Albanian media were also targeted in North Mitrovica. It was also reported that protesters chased journalists with cars.
Xhemajl Rexha, president of the Board of the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, said that “AJK is alarmed with what our colleagues had to go through today“.
He added: “Reporting from riots and tensions in the north of Kosovo is always difficult, but today journalists and media operators from both Albanian and Serbian language media were attacked and pressured by local protesters. As their lives were put in danger during the time of reporting, we called urgently on Kosovo Police to protect them. AJK is in close contact with authorities to ensure a safe environment for journalists to do their work.”
EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez said: “Journalists must be able to report from the field to provide citizens with reliable and accurate information on these events. It is disturbing to learn that some journalists had to leave because they were targeted and feared for their safety. We urge the authorities to do everything possible to allow media professionals to report safely as close to the events as possible.”
EFJ secretary reacts to reports of journalists being attacked in the north (Kallxo/media)
Ricardo Gutierrez, General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), has reacted to journalists reporting on yesterday’s events in the north of Kosovo being attacked by Serb protesters.
“Journalists covering protests under attack in Mitrovica. We call on the police to protect them!,” Gutierrez wrote on Twitter.
Earlier, the Association of Journalists of Kosovo issued a statement expressing concern over, as it said, the difficult and unsafe working conditions for journalists today in the northern municipalities of Kosovo. “According to reports, several journalists of different Albanian media outlets were attacked in the ‘Bosniak Quarter’ in Northern Mitrovica and another incident occurred on the way to Leposavic where protesters chased cars with journalists. Meanwhile, there were attacks and pressured on journalists of the local portal ‘Kossev’, by protesters. As a result, the portal has withdrawn its teams from the ground,” AJK said.
Video published of moment when explosive device thrown near reporter (media)
Xhemajl Rexha, a journalist with Kanal 10 and Chairman of the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, published a video from the moment when an explosive device was thrown at a reporter of Kanal 10 as she was reporting live from the north.
The video can be seen in the link below:
— Xhemajl Rexha (@xhemajl_rexha) October 13, 2021
The Radio Free Europe team unable to work in the north (RFE)
The team of Radio Free Europe was prevented to commence their work on Wednesday, October 13, by a number of protesters in Rudare, Zvecan. Upon entering Rudare, the car with which the team of Radio Free Europe was traveling, was stopped and surrounded by about 50 people, who asked not to be filmed. In an attempt to take the camera, they damaged it as well as the taxi vehicle with which the team was traveling. The team managed to leave the crowd unharmed. The REL team was traveling on the Prishtina-Raska highway, to report on the barricades placed in Rudare, Zvecan.
Local Serbs have deployed trucks there to oppose an action organized by Kosovo Police and Customs against smuggling of goods. Earlier in the day, the Kosovo Journalists’ Association expressed concern about attacks on journalists in northern Kosovo while reporting on police action.
Violence in North Kosovo draws conflicting reactions (BIRN)
After violence erupted in northern Kosovo following a police raid, Serbian leaders met Kosovo Serb representatives, and Kosovo leaders defended the police’s action against what appeared to be EU criticism of ‘unilateral action’.
Following violence in Serb-majority northern Kosovo on Wednesday, after Kosovo police conducted raids against suspected smugglers, the US called for calm, the EU criticised a “unilateral action”, Serbia condemned Kosovo, and Kosovo leaders defended the police.
Kosovo police arrested eight people and issued arrest warrants for 10 more, during and after the raids against suspected smugglers. Six of the arrested people are of Albanian nationality, one is Serb and one Bosniak. Eight out of 10 people served with arrest warrants are Albanians and two are Serbs.
A Kosovo Serb from Zvecan, who police claimed had a criminal past, was shot and underwent surgery and is in care in Mitrovica North hospital.
Serbian President Vucic meanwhile met Kosovo Serbs in Raska, near the border with Kosovo, where he was asked if he would “stand behind us, and defend us”.
At the meeting broadcast on Radio Television of Serbia, as well as other media, Vucic told Kosovo Serbs that “we have to be someone who will maintain to respect the agreement”.
“Do not react to non-violence, but if they [Kosovo authorities] start violence, you protect your people and we will be with you,” Vucic told them.
“Just keep in mind what the price is that we will all have to pay for that, and why my request is to try to avoid it, and if they [Kosovo authorities] start and continue shooting our people, then we really won’t have a choice,” he added.
Together with Vucic at the meeting were Defence Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin, chief of general staff Milan Mojsilovic and Kosovo Office director Petar Petkovic.
President of parliament Ivica Dacic said earlier that “the international community has to make a key decision about what it wants in Kosovo and Metohija – war or peace”.
“What is happening now is not only a mockery in the face of the entire international community, but it is also an attempt to intimidate with the ultimate goal of the military conquest of northern Kosovo, where Serbs live, with the additional goal of expelling them from Kosovo and Metohija,” Dacic told Tanjug news agency.
The United States Embassy in Kosovo urged calm after the incidents in the north.
“The United States is concerned by responses to today’s Kosovo law enforcement actions on Kosovo territory. All violence, whether directed at authorities, media, or civilians, is unacceptable and should be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We urge calm,” embassy spokesperson Eric Brassil told BIRN.
In a joint press conference with the Kosovo police director, Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla on Wednesday rejected EU claims about a “unilateral and uncoordinated action”.
“We have had coordination with international actors. [NATO peacekeeping mission] KFOR was informed. If one thinks that we have to coordinate with Belgrade, I think this is a wrong approach,” Svecla said.
There was “coordination with international actors and we informed them” he added, saying that “KFOR was notified beforehand”.
This came after the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, said via a Tweet that “the violent incidents in the north of Kosovo need to stop immediately. Unilateral and uncoordinated actions that endanger stability are unacceptable”, adding that “all open issues must be addressed through the EU-facilitated Dialogue”.
Replying to Borrell, Luan Dalipi, chef-de-cabinet for PM Albin Kurti, emphasized the need “not to portray the unfortunate violence instigated by few hooligans orchestrated by Belgrade as some inter-ethnic problem between Albanian and Serbian citizens in Kosovo”.
“No one, and especially no high-level EU official, should try to make this a political or ethnic problem, and bilateral coordination is not relevant in this case, because stopping crime and illegal trading is a typical competency of a sovereign country,” Dalipi added.
“Crime and contraband have no ethnicity”, Dalipi added, noting that the prosecutor and the judge who authorized the action are Kosovo Serbs.
Kosovo President Osmani also claimed that “crime has no ethnicity” via Twitter, adding: “Falsely linking today’s action with specific ethnic groups is deeply irresponsible, as it will only serve to increase tensions. Anyone that is against this action is siding with organized crime and is against EU rule-of-law values”.
“Kosovo is challenged by crime and corruption but we are engaging to have a war against these occurrences. This action is in the sequence of the war against corruption,” Interior Minister Svecla told the media.
The police director, Samedin Mehmeti, told the media that groups in the divided town of Mitrovica blocked the roads, threw hand grenades and fired firearms. “It is suspected that there was a leak of information about the operation,” he said.
President Osmani on Twitter also condemned attacks on journalists by protesters in the north of Kosovo.
“This is yet another demonstration of dangers posed by Serbia’s illegal & violent structures,” she wrote, adding: “Journalism is the foundation of a free & democratic nation. Journalists need to work in a safe environment.”
In the police clashes with Kosovo Serb protesters in Mitrovica, Kosovo Serbs threw different explosive devices at the police and put up blockades of trucks on roads close to the technical high school in Serb-run North Mitrovica. Eight police officers were injured, according to Kosovo Interior Minister Svecla, and journalists attacked.
Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Osmani to represent Kosovo at UN Security Council session (Koha)
President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani has travelled to New York to attend the upcoming session of the UN Security Council on Kosovo.
“In this meeting of the Security Council, President Osmani will represent the progress made so far by the state of Kosovo, its challenges and perspective,” Kosovo’s presidency said.
Kandic says it is not safe to sit with Petkovic at the negotiating table (RTK)
Natasa Kandic, founder of the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre, took to Twitter to comment on a statement made by the Head of the Serbian Government’s Office for Kosovo Petar Petkovic against Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti.
“Is it normal for a director of the office for KiM to say about Kosovo prime minister that he is a ‘psychopath and lunatic’. With the same anger he calls on the EU to react because the Kosovo Police is attacking ‘unarmed people’. With him it is no longer safe to sit at the negotiating table,” Kandic wrote.
Vucic: If they start violence, you protect the people; we’ll be with you (media)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met with political representatives of Kosovo Serbs on Wednesday following the Kosovo Police anti-smuggling operation in north of Kosovo. Vucic was quoted as saying at the meeting, which was broadcast live: “If they go and continue shooting our people, then we really have no choice. In that fight in which we must protect the lives of our children and their survival, not only will we protect, but today I tell you for the first time with certainty – that we will win in that fight”.
Blerim Vela, Chief of Staff to the President of Kosovo, shared Vucic’s remarks in a Twitter post, adding that “for the second time in couple of weeks, Vucic threatens that Serbia will deploy its forces in Kosovo. Besides his attempt to maintain a Vucic-Belivuk type of crime syndicate in north Kosovo, the European Union needs to call out publicly his hegemonic ambitions.”
Dacic: War or peace, the international community to decide (Indeksonline)
The Speaker of the Assembly of Serbia, Ivica Dacic, reacted to Wednesday’s events in the north, saying that the international community must undertake strict measures to stop what he called unilateral actions that will bring the whole region to a “war or peace” situation. Dacic said that the international community must make a firm decision whether it wants peace or war in Kosovo.
Djuric: Kurti’s desperate attempts to demonstrate power before elections (media)
Serbia’s Ambassador to the United States, Marko Djuric, said in a Twitter post that “the violence is yet another one of Kurti’s desperate attempts to use violence to demonstrate power in advance of local elections on Sunday.”
Grenell: Biden must not be silent; this is dangerous and ruthless (media)
Former US President Donald Trump’s envoy for the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Richard Grenell, said on Wednesday that the Brussels Agreement was clear and should be adhered to. “The Brussels agreement is clear and should be adhered to – this violates it. The political manipulation of some in Pristina ahead of Sunday’s local elections in Kosovo must stop. This is dangerous and reckless. Joe Biden must also not be silent about this situation,” Grenell wrote on his Twitter profile.
UNS: To enable uninterrupted work of journalists in the north Kosovo (N1)
The Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS) protested yesterday against the attempt to confiscate equipment and interfere with the work of journalists who reported yesterday morning from the protests in North Mitrovica and Zvecan due to the police action from Pristina and called on citizens and police to allow journalists to work unhindered.
The editor of the KoSSev portal, Tatjana Lazarevic, told UNS that the journalists of that portal had visible markings, and one of them also had a vest on which the press was written.
“One of the demonstrators wanted to take the phone from the journalist and editor Ivan Mitic, with which he recorded the event, but he failed. Somewhat later, while he was filming the extinguishing of the burning car, a group of about ten demonstrators went towards him and tried to drive him away. He heard from the group: ‘This is the one who records live all the time’. According to his testimony, then a friendly protester hugged him and took him out of the crowd,” said Lazarevic.
Journalists from other newsrooms also contacted UNS, saying that the police had obstructed them while reporting on the protest.
The association called on citizens not to hinder journalists, to take care of their safety, especially bearing in mind the fact that timely information about events of public interest significantly contributes to preventing the spread of panic and misinformation.
Reactions of parties in Serbia to the Kosovo police operation (N1)
Borko Stefanovic, Deputy President of the Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) and former head of the Serbian negotiating team in the Brussels negotiations, called on the members of the Serbian List in the Government of Kosovo to leave their positions.
The NADA coalition, gathered around the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and the Movement for the Renewal of the Kingdom of Serbia (POKS), demanded the urgent withdrawal of the special units of the Kosovo police, ROSU, from the north of Kosovo.
DSS President Milos Jovanovic pointed out that the excessive use of force under the pretext of controlling the operations of pharmacy institutions in North Mitrovica is clearly aimed at intimidating Serbs before Sunday’s local elections.
The president of POKS, Zika Gojkovic pointed out that the incursion of ROSU units from Jarinje and Brnjak several weeks ago and today in the northern part of Mitrovica North is a clear message that there is no place for Serbs in Kosovo.
The Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) strongly condemned the violent armed incursion of the special unit of the Kosovo Police ROSU into northern Mitrovica and Zvecan, during which the road to Rudare, i.e. central Serbia, was blocked.
The vice president of the Democratic Party (DS), Tatjana Manojlovic strongly condemned the latest wave of violence in northern Mitrovica and Zvecan, the use of force, intimidation, and discipline of Serbs in this area.
The Dveri movement proposed to the Government of Serbia to request an emergency session of the UN Security Council due to the conflict between the special Kosovo police and the local population in the Serb communities in Kosovo, and to include Russia in that.
The “1 in 5 Million” movement condemns the incursion of a special unit of the Kosovo Police and the use of force against the Serb population in the north of Kosovo and demands from the international community to react urgently and restrain the Kosovo government to prevent escalation of violence.
The Movement of Free Citizens (PSG) called on the international community, and above all KFOR and NATO, to stop further escalation of violence against Serbs in Kosovo with decisive moves.