Approximately 200 citizens gathered today on the promenade in North Mitrovica, in front of the premises of Srpska Lista, where they protested against the policies of SL and Aleksandar Vucic when it comes to Kosovo Serbs.
They accused them of failing to represent the interests of the Serb people, nepotism, and SL officials of accumulating wealth immorally.
They made demands to the Kosovo authorities, the international community, and Belgrade, asking for 100% involvement of local Serbs in decision-making when it comes to their own fate, the immediate withdrawal of the Kosovo Police from the north, the release of arrested Serbs, and the suspension of negotiations until these demands are met.
They expressed solidarity with the Serbs south of the Ibar, with the injured Serb youth, sending messages against partition. One of the organizers also had a request for the Serbian Patriarch, saying that he should „return to the Pec Patriarchate“, and „share the fate of his people“.
At the same time as the gathering in North Mitrovica, a rally was organized by SL in Strpce. According to the testimony of several citizens, employees were instructed to attend the protest in Strpce as part of their work obligations. The protest was organized after two Serb youths were wounded on Christmas Day.
About a hundred citizens observed the gathering in North Mitrovica, grouped behind numerous media crews. Also, supporters of the current policy were spotted at the event, although they stood on the sidelines.
Several carabinieri units were stationed nearby. The gathering, which was not reported to the police, passed peacefully, without a single incident.
The protest started around noon when gathered citizens displayed a large banner with the inscription: „Vucic, Kosmet doesn’t want you! You betrayed us. We don’t want your ASM! You sold us out!”
At the beginning of the event, citizens cried „treason“ and „black list“. They criticized Aleksandar Vucic, SL leaders, as well as the Prime Minister of Kosovo. At the same time, the protestors showed solidarity with the Serbs south of the Ibar and with the wounded youth from Strpce.
The citizens who spoke at the rally today said that they want to send a message of peace and that they do not want provocations – only freedom. Furthermore, they underlined that it is not a party, but a civil gathering of people who „raised their voices against the terror that is being carried out.“
And while the participants of the rally stood on one side of the promenade, on the other, about a hundred people listened attentively to what was being said.
„We gathered, we had to, the hour has come“
One of the organizers of the protest, Ivan Miletic from North Mitrovica, was the first to address the gathered citizens.
„We gathered, we had to, the hour has come. The people of North Mitrovica and the people of Kosovo will not stop, they will not surrender and we will fight to the end,“ said Miletic. His words were met with applause, while the protesters cried „treason“.
He said that all Serbs from Kosovo should have attended the rally today.
„We are not here for ourselves, but for all of us, for our children. I’m not part of any party, precisely so that they cannot divide us, so that they can’t say – ‘this one belongs to that one’, I belong to myself, to the people, and to God,“ he said.
All Serbs were united while setting up barricades, said Miletic, and they believed that Vucic and Serbia decided to stand behind the people and support them:
„That Aleksandar Vucic decided to finally do something for us in Kosovo, not to let us down – as it appears he did.“
He emphasized that the citizens gathered today to send a message to everyone – the international community, Belgrade and Pristina that they will not „tolerate terror“.
„That we will not tolerate ROSU forces in the north of Kosovo, nor anywhere Serbs live. We have nothing against the Albanian people. We have nothing against people who have good will and good intentions. But we have something against terror. No one will put up with this anymore. This is the cry of the citizens, the cry of the brothers, the cry of the Serbs. We can’t take it anymore,“ Miletic said.
He called on Kurti and the international community to immediately withdraw all police officers from the north and shut down special force bases.
„There is no need for them to be here. This area is dominantly inhabited by the Serbian people who want freedom. They do not want to live in fear of whether they will be able to move and whether someone will stop or harass their children tomorrow. We only want freedom,“ said Miletic.
Addressing the rally that was held in Strpce at the same time, Miletic said that the citizens from the north who went there do not have it easy either.
A large number of good people share the opinion of those gathered at the protest, and who were blackmailed and therefore did not respond to the call – he added.
„There are a lot of good people there who think like us, but they are being blackmailed and are not capable of fighting back. I invite them to all come together. It is not too late, you can step out and say that you will not tolerate anyone’s cruelty. Please, folks, this is the cry of us – the citizens. It is not easy for me to speak in front of these people, but I am not afraid of anyone. I am pure before God,“ said Miletic at the beginning of the protest.
He described the compatriots south of the Ibar as “our brothers, our bigger heroes“.
After Miletic, other Serbs from the north of Kosovo also spoke at the gathering – Nebojsa Miletic, Goran Milenkovic and the commissioner of the Movement for the Defense of Kosovo and Metohija, Nebojsa Jovic.
„Some kind of list that does not represent us was imposed on us“
Nebojsa Miletic underscored that the participants of the protest did not come out to give political speeches.
„We came simply to have our voices heard from entire Kosovo, we who raised our voices against this terror that is carried out against us. We came to ask why the barricades were removed if none of the conditions were met.“
He reminded that on Monday, January 9, the trial of former Kosovo policeman Dejan Pantic is set to start and that none of the arrested Serbs were released – despite this being one of the requests Serbs set in order to remove the barricades.
The Kosovo special forces also did not withdraw – he added.
„ROSU units have nothing to do here. The request for the army, the army did not appear here and should not appear, we did allow that, but none of those requests were fulfilled and the barricades were removed,“ said Miletic.
He sent a message to top Serbian officials:
„If you can’t protect us in any other way, don’t protect us like this anymore.“
„No one gathered here is against the state of Serbia, we are all good people, patriots and strong people, we are fighting for our survival – on our centuries-old hearths, no one wants anything bad, and especially not on this great holiday Christmas – the birth of Christ.“
He also says that Serbs in the north of Kosovo expressed their desire not to participate in the elections within the Kosovo system more than a decade ago – in the places they wanted to preserve Serbia.
„Some kind of list was imposed on us that basically does not represent us,“ said Miletic, whose words were met with the approval of the gathered protesters.
He added that the Serbs have no one to represent them, sending a message to Belgrade:
„That’s why we ask the official Belgrade to listen to us – the people who live here and who are determined to stay in this area. To listen to what we said today and to hear what we said before and help us in that way. We’ve had enough of this terror. Many ugly things happened to us over the years, and they continued to happen, especially now on this great holiday of ours,“ Miletic emphasized, thanking the citizens who joined the rally despite what he described as “enormous pressure.”
Halt the negotiations until the demands are met
The third speaker at the rally, Goran Milenkovic, demanded freedom for Serbs, which, in his words, they have not had for 23 years.
„More or less, freedom of movement and life is seized from us every day,“ said Milenkovic.
On the other hand, he said that they wanted to send a message of peace and that they did not want provocations. He reiterated that it was not a party-led gathering, but that the citizens who wanted to step forward on behalf of the people had gathered today.
„We have to stick to each other and unite. We all have to be together as one,“ he stressed.
Milenkovic reiterated the same demands – that all the arrested Serbs are released who were “imprisoned as per various demands illegally and without any reason.” For the international community, he had two “basic demands” – for special and other units of the Kosovo Police to withdraw, as well as for the special force bases in the north to be removed.
He called on KFOR and EULEX to „do the work they came here to do.“
„Their obligations are listed in their documents. Everything else is a step away from their mandate. Otherwise, it means nothing to us. They openly put themselves on the other side and they are not protecting the people of Kosovo. We are sending them a message – if you want to do your job – fine, if not, then what is left for us,“ he said.
On the other hand, he asked Serbia to halt negotiations until these two demands are met.
Milenkovic then called on the Serbian state leadership to allow all Serbs from Kosovo to decide their own fate:
„For those of us here today, and those who are not, to take part in preserving our lives and destiny in these areas. This is the obligation of our country,“ he said.
The rally organizers also expressed dissatisfaction and protest regarding the recent attacks on Serb youth in Strpce and a young man in Klokot, wishing them a speedy recovery.
We wouldn’t want that to happen even to our greatest enemies
President – you purchase our unrest with your peace, you have no right to do so
How nice it is to have a backbone – Nebojsa Jovic recalled the words from a decade ago, at a time when Serbs from the north resisted the integration into the Kosovan system, implemented by Belgrade against their will. He emphasized that the gathered Serbs are not against „our country“ – Serbia, which they have been underlining for years.
„Whatever kind of a country it is, it is ours, but we are against what they are doing with all our heart and soul. Aleksandar Vucic is not a problem for us, neither is Boris Tadic, nor anyone else, the problem for us, gentlemen, is that you threaten our survival and our families, and we will no longer be silent. Our main problem is Albin Kurti’s policy of pressuring the Serbs in Kosovo, where he deploys ROSU units, where he builds bases where there is no need to build them in the north except to sow fear, but there is less fear.”
According to him, since the time of Boris Tadic to Aleksandar Vucic, the state has been convincing Serbs in Kosovo that infiltrating the Albanian state was a good idea.
„After that, they (cf. Serbs south of the Ibar) no longer exist for them,“ Jovic said.
He called on his comrades, but also all those who will protest in the future, not to leave out the Serbs south of the Ibar.
„When you print a banner – Kosovo is the heart, but Metohija is the soul of Serbia, and body and soul – What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.“
„Our brothers south of the Ibar are our Obilics, they are brave people, we are not half as brave as they are. Brothers, please don’t mind if we forget to mention Kosovo and Metohija in our requests. This does not mean that we do not think of you,“ emphasized Jovic.
He also shared his support of the injured Serb youth in Klokot and Strpce.
Jovic spoke about the „excessive ten-year-long threats and blackmail“, but also warned that a similar situation must not befall anyone who participated in the gathering today.
„Anyone who faces problems at work because of participation in such gatherings, where Serbia, religion, God and family are defended, will have problems. We don’t look for problems. If one does not perform well at one’s workplace – creates a problem, or embezzles, of course, they will be held accountable. But if they have problems because of these activities, we will go to that director, president, whoever and speak to him. Their strength is based on our fear. We are not sheep, they are not wolves. This is not a threat, but a warning, we don’t want conflict with anyone, we want to cooperate.“
The Serbian president must ensure peace for the Serbs, even though Vucic is not doing that – he added.
„No, President, you are purchasing our unrest with your peace. You are buying the unrest of our children,“ emphasized Jovic, noting that the „peace“ Vucic calls for goes to the detriment of the arrested Serbs. „You have no right to that,“ he said.
Noting that the Serbian Army withdrew as per UN Security Council Resolution 1244, Jovic however added: “Resolution 1244 does not foresee that the Serbian army will not react in Kosovo and Metohija, but we also remind you that nowhere does it say that it can just observe as Serbs are being harassed.”
„President, freeze the negotiations. It is not popular to say withdraw from negotiations, but freeze negotiations. You had barricades as a trump card for the withdrawal of the ROSU units from the North. You dismantled the barricades, I don’t know why, you didn’t ask anyone,“ Jovic argued.
He pointed out that the presence of ROSU units in the North is also not in line with the Kosovo constitution.
„We demand that the ROSU units withdraw immediately, there is no need for them to be here, they are always a source of conflict. If someone is thinking about controlled conflicts, I will remind them that the history of these areas teaches us that even the smallest conflicts can become something bigger. We don’t want conflicts. As Orthodox believers, we do not want conflicts with anyone, but we also remind you that we do not run away from conflicts.“
In addition to the request for the withdrawal of the Kosovo special forces, Jovic also stated that they demand that Albanian judges cannot be involved in proceedings led against Serbs. Despite this provision being included in the agreements, Albanian members of both the police and the judiciary have proven through several cases that „they are not impartial,“ while also showing signs of „Serb-phobia,” Jovic added.
To be hunted like rabbits and released after two or three years when they destroy our lives and families, we will not take that any longer
According to him, KFOR should be the only one responsible for security in the north.
Jovic then asked the Serb president why he is remaining silent when it comes to the formation of the Kosovo army.
Instead of all that, Jovic advocates the return of both the UNMIK police and judiciary as a „transitional solution“, but also the immediate formation of Serbian institutions following the withdrawal of Serbs from Kosovo’s institutions.
He also highlighted another demand – that the voice of local Serbs is heard.
„Srpska Lista can no longer represent us. This kind of politics of Aleksandar Vucic can no longer represent us. You, gentlemen, represent your capital, your interests, for you – the people do not exist (…) From today, on the second day of Christmas, we will try as hard as we can for the Serbs south of the Ibar, our fate will no longer be decided in the hands of a few businessmen, failed politicians, people who only care about their families.“
He presented a proposal – to form a delegation that will meet with the president of the North Mitrovica PA, or the head of SL, and form a new coordinating body made up of local representatives. Serbs must have their representatives guided exclusively by the interests of the local community – he stressed.
Jovic highlighted the negative examples set by SL officials, related to their alleged immoral money-making and nepotism, listing the numerous functions and sources of income of the vice-president of SL, Igor Simic, including the one obtained from the private children’s playroom, in front of which the meeting was held.
Furthermore, he also listed the posts held by Srpska Lista chief, Goran Rakic, including his reported income.
„What kind of patriot are you when you have seven or eight wages, other children can’t even make ends meet,“ stated Jovic, adding: „Well, are you some kind of a Tesla, Putin, to receive such wages?!“
He accused Srpska Lista of being corrupt from top to bottom, bringing into question to whom this party is gifting apartments and giving jobs. Jovic also stated that in connection with this, he will fight to create a more balanced social map of Serbs in Kosovo.
He also accused the largest Kosovo Serb party of being willing to go into conflicts, and of organizing counter rallies, underlining that the participants of the protest will not fall for that. Moreover, he accused them of being „voluntary donors of Serb blood“.
Finally, Jovic presented a request to the Patriarch as well:
“Your Holiness, return to your home. As you said the other day that you are sorry, that you are sad, don’t be sad, Your Holiness, come to the Patriarchate of Pec, and be with your people in the Patriarchate. There is a place for you there set by God, there is also a place for you from the people, share your destiny with the people. It will be for the glory and name of God, whether it will be in victory or defeat, is there anything more beautiful for an archbishop, for a patriarch, than to suffer on the cross with his people? We urge you to come here. Your Serbian people are calling you. We are waiting for you to come to the Patriarchate of Pec.“
Jovic was also the one who announced that the rally will be held near the monument to Knez Lazar, symbolically starting at 12.01.
The protest was originally scheduled for January 9, but the organizers decided to change the date due to, as they stated, numerous requests from fellow citizens, and work obligations.
The announcement arrived after the latest tensions in the North of Kosovo eased, that is, the barricades installed by the Serbs were dismantled even though the demands set by SL were not met.
Serbs from the north of Kosovo erected the first barricades on December 10th. By December 29th, there were as many as 14 of them. The barricades were set up following the arrest of a former member of the Kosovo Police, Dejan Pantic. His release, but also the release of two more arrested Serbs, was one of the conditions for removing the barricades along with the withdrawal of the alleged lists for the arrest of Serbs, and the withdrawal of members of the Kosovo Police stationed in the North.
While Pantic was placed under house arrest, and Belgrade allegedly received guarantees that there would be no criminal prosecution of the participants at the barricades, Srdjan Trajkovic and Miljan Adzic remain in custody, and ethnic Albanian policemen are still deployed in the ethnically mixed parts of North Mitrovica.
Even though not all conditions were met, the organizers of the barricades agreed to remove them.
The commissioner of the Movement for the Defense of Kosovo and Metohija then called on the citizens to gather in order to raise their voices against the „high treason“ of Aleksandar Vucic and the „torture, boasting, uncontrolled money-making, threats, blackmail“ of Srpska Lista, and the „most cruel betrayal“ from last week – „endorsement“ of the bases of the Kosovo Police.
„Citizens of Serbian Mitrovica will come out to publicly and clearly send a message to the public, Serbian first of all, that Aleksandar Vucic, with his pro-Albanian policy that is destructive for the Serbs in Kosovo, as well as Srpska Lista, which was a long-term partner of Thaci and Haradinaj, can no longer represent the Serbs living in Kosovo,“ he said.
He also announced that they will ask the authorities in Belgrade to appoint a „state negotiator“ – a representative for the Serbs in Kosovo, who will above all respect the interests of both Serbia and the Kosovo Serbs. He said that they will request the withdrawal of all police forces from the north that have been deployed in the meantime, and urged KFOR not to go beyond the scope of its mandate.
The gathering of Serbs in North Mitrovica was supported by the Movement for the Defense of Kosovo and Metohija, as well as the provincial committee of the People’s Party of Kosovo and Metohija.
At the same time as the rally in this northern town, Srpska Lista held a protest on the plateau in front of the House of Culture in Strpce.
The protest was organized after an 11-year-old boy and a 21-year-old young man, both ethnic Serbs, were attacked on Christmas Day in the village of Gotovusa. In the meantime, in connection with the case, one person was arrested and charged with three crimes, including aggravated attempted murder. The protest also came after ethnic Albanians allegedly attacked a young Serb man in Klokot on Christmas morning. The Kosovo police claim that a fight actually broke out between two groups. The suspects are still unknown.
The third reason behind this protest was the „continuous anti-Serb repression of Albin Kurti’s regime“, stated this party.
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