Tension rises on Kosovo-Serbia border amid protests and gunfire

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

Mr Vucic, who called a high-level meeting of security and military officials on Sunday evening, said the Kosovo government was trying to cast him in the same light as President Vladimir V. Putin by blaming the unrest on Serbia’s close relationship with Russia, another Slavic and Orthodox Christian nation.

Kosovo leader Mr Vucic said at Sunday’s press conference that he was trying to take advantage of the global mood by projecting that “big Putin gave orders to little Putin, so the new Zelensky, under the form of Albin Kurti, will be a savior and will fight against the great Serbian Hegemony.

Vladimir Djukanovic, a Serbian MP from Mr. Vucic’s ruling party, also linked the border dispute to the war in Ukraine, tweeting: “It seems to me that Serbia will be forced to start the denazification of the Balkans”, an ominous reference to Russia’s justification for invading Ukraine.

Serbia, a candidate for membership of the European Union, has maintained close ties with Moscow and did not adhere to Western sanctions against Russia, although he voted in favor of a United Nations resolution condemning the Russian invasion from Ukraine. Belgrade and Moscow share animosity with the NATO military alliance over its bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, when Mr Vucic was spokesman for Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

NATO still maintains a peacekeeping presence in Kosovo, with a force of around 3,700 soldiers. In a press release, NATO said its force on the ground was “ready to intervene if stability is threatened”.