army launches exercises near Kosovo


Belgrade says exercises on Kosovo border are “routine” as deadline looms in document disputes

Serbian army units began exercises near the administrative border with Kosovo on Wednesday. Although their timing coincides with the deadline given by the Pristina authorities for the implementation of the controversial ban on Serbian documents, Belgrade insists the exercises are completely routine.

“The training is conducted to maintain the high level of combat readiness of the units involved, and their ability to react quickly, if necessary, to establish peace and security along the administrative line,” the Serbian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“Particular attention is paid to exercises simulating an attack on the unit and the tactics, techniques and procedures to stop illegal crossings, extremist group operations and organized crime,” added the army in Belgrade.

Local residents have reported sightings of trucks, armored vehicles and even tanks near Raska and Novi Pazar, towns closest to the two administrative border crossings with the breakaway province, where ethnic Albanian authorities attempted to block traffic last month. ban with Serbian documents.

Belgrade and Pristina have since negotiated a compromise on other documents, but Albin Kurti’s government is adamant that Serbian license plates and ID cards should disappear from September 1.

Several Western military attaches had requested access to Serbian military bases in Raska and Novi Pazar over the weekend, but Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters he refused to give them permission.

“I didn’t allow it. If we decide to put on a show, they can see what we have.” he said, while attending joint police and military exercises, dubbed “North Wind 2022” in eastern Serbia.

NATO occupied Kosovo in 1999, after a 78-day air war against Serbia. The province unilaterally declared independence in 2008 and has been recognized by the US and its allies, but not by about half of the world, including Belgrade, Russia, China and several EU member states. Vucic is currently pursuing the policy of military neutrality and is not imposing sanctions on Russia as he seeks to join the EU.

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