Kosovo Serbs begin removal of barricades set up after assured by US, EU of no arrests

NATO forces secure scene for a crane truck to remove buses, other trucks.

Kosovo Serbs begin removal of barricades set up after assured by US, EU of no arrests

Kosovo Serbs on Thursday began to remove barricades set up amid recent tensions, after being assured by the US and EU that there will be no arrests.

The removal of barricades began in the town of Rudare where at least 14 trucks, tankers, and buses are blocking the main road.

A crane truck driven by a masked person is moving the vehicles.

Three patrols from NATO peacekeepers, known as the Kosovo Force, or KFOR are stationed in front of the barricade to secure the scene.

Earlier in the day, the Kosovo police announced that the barricade located at the Merdare Border Crossing between Kosovo and Serbia, on the Serbian side, was removed and the traffic is operating smoothly.

The removal of barricades in Kosovo began on Wednesday night after Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic called on Serbs to remove barricades erected in northern Kosovo after being assured by the US and EU that there will be no arrests, according to an official.

According to Vucic, Serbia has received guarantees from the US and EU that there is no arrest list for Serbs who took part in the protests and setting up barricades.

Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have escalated since the Dec. 10 detention of former Serbian police officer Dejan Pantic on suspicion of attacking election officials.

Protesting Pantic’s arrest, Kosovo Serbs have been standing guard at barricades they set up at border crossings since Dec. 10.

Two new barricades were set up after Kosovar authorities blocked Serbian Patriarch Porfirije from entering the country from ahead of Orthodox Christmas celebrations.

Kosovo, predominantly inhabited by Albanians, broke from Serbia in 1999 and declared independence in 2008. But Serbia has not recognized the move and sees its former province as part of its territory.

The EU, NATO, and the US have called for de-escalation and the removal of barricades in northern Kosovo, while Serbia has requested to deploy its army and police based on a UN resolution.

Hüseyin Demir

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