The special units of the Kosovo Police staged a major operation in four municipalities in the north and three municipalities in the south of Kosovo yesterday morning. Persons suspected of being involved in smuggling, organized crime, corruption and abuse of office were arrested during the action, including 19 police officers – 11 Serbs, 4 Albanians, and 4 Bosniaks. The police announced that the arrests were made based on an order of the Basic Court in Pristina, following a nearly year-long investigation by the Kosovo Special Prosecutor’s Office and the Kosovo Police Inspectorate.
Below we publish an overview of yesterday’s events.
Special Kosovo Police units carried out a major operation in several locations in northern municipalities and three municipalities in the south yesterday morning.
Tuesday morning in North Mitrovica started with the sound of sirens, as police arrested citizens and police officers suspected of being part of an organized criminal group and charged them with criminal offenses of „smuggling, abuse of office, and bribery,“ among other offences.
An armed struggle occurred in North Mitrovica, but the operation was continued and the evidence and weapons were confiscated – the police said yesterday.
The sirens could also be heard in Zubin Potok, where the locals set up barricades near the village of Varage to deter the police units.
Police stated that due to the barricades they were forced „to use any necessary means to remove the road barricades in order to continue the operation.“
Several policemen were arrested, including a police station commander in Zubin Potok, where several citizens were allegedly injured, presumed by rubber bullets, and the police also used a shock bomb.
According to the citizens’ testimonies, the special units of the Kosovo Police also conducted a search of certain premises in Zubin Potok.
Zubin Potok,Ugljare. pic.twitter.com/rCRgI5TkKt
— Jor-El (@MijacicS) May 28, 2019
This police operation ended at noon and resulted, as Pristina-based media reported, in the arrest of 19 police officers, including three female members of the Kosovo Police from the north, and 9 civilians.
Director General of the Kosovo Police, Rashit Qalaj assessed this action as successful and confirmed that there were some problems in the Zubin Potok municipality.
„At the beginning of the action, the police were ambushed and shot at. One police officer suffered minor injuries. Another policeman was hit by the same bullet, but the speed of the bullet had decreased, causing minor abrasions,“ Qalaj said, Koha reported.
Qalaj said that due to these circumstances and „armed resistance“ other units were engaged and they removed the barricades „by force and managed to search premises and planned locations“.
He confirmed that three officials were injured during the removal of the barricades as well as 6 citizens who were present at the barricades, while several of them were arrested.
The Police Inspectorate then confirmed that during the search, as part of this action, weapons, technical equipment and money were confiscated, and that 19 arrested police officers will be detained for up to 48 hours and suspended.
Additionally, two UN officials were arrested in the action, one of whom is a Russian citizen. The police announced that their vehicle was found near the barricades, and that they were arrested as participants at the barricades.
UNMIK demanded the immediate release of UN staff, underlining that „any harm to United Nations staff will be met with the highest degree of diplomatic and international legal responses.”
Both staff members were later transferred to hospital for treatment – the mission confirmed in a statement.
Russian Ambassador to Serbia, Alexander Chepurin condemned yesterday’s action of the Special Forces.
„We will demand an investigation into that incident from the international presence controlling the situation in the region and that those responsible be prosecuted,“ the Ambassador stressed.
He called „the attack of the so-called Kosovo Albanian police officers on Mikhail Krasnoshchekov, an employee of the UN with diplomatic immunity, a flagrant provocation and a new show of Pristina’s disrespect for the rules of international law and civilized communication.“
KoSSev revealed that four injured persons, among whom was one deaf person and a Russian citizen and UNMIK member, were admitted to the Hospital Center in North Mitrovica in the afternoon, after the operation was finished.
Yesterday’s action of the Kosovo police was commented on by both Kosovo and Serbian officials, as well as officials from Brussels and international organizations in Kosovo.
Serbian officials described the operation as „intimidation of Serbs“, „causing panic“, „preparations for the taking over of the north,“ while one opposition politician said that it was a „poorly-directed performance“.
The head of the Kosovo Office, Marko Djuric urged the prevention of this scenario because it “is disturbing the peace in the territory of our southern province,“ Tanjug news agency reported.
He assessed the action of the police as one-sided, adding that „Serbs and Bosniaks were beaten, tied and taken away like cattle, while Pristina, in the framework of an alleged anti-corruption campaign, is sending out calls for interviews in the police stations to Albanian suspects.“
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic defined the action as a „literal beating of the Serbs,“ adding that the Kosovo police wanted to „show how powerful it is“.
He added that the action was „an attempt to criminalize the north in order to begin the takeover of these Serb-majority territories through several stages“.
„Today is another tough day for us and it speaks about the intentions of both Albanian authorities and those who support them. All the stories about how this is part of the fight against corruption are ridiculous. When you look at the number of arrested Serbs and the number of arrested Albanians, it turns out that the Serbs are genetically 14 times the criminals than the Albanians are. You will agree that it doesn’t make sense,“ President Vucic said today.
According to him, things will not be the same after this “attack.“ Vucic also announced a change of attitude towards the Albanian negotiators and all those who „played dumb by saying that it is a fight against corruption.“
One of the opposition leaders, the head of the Dveri movement, Bosko Obradovic assessed the police action as „a consequence of a direct agreement between Serbian and Kosovo President Aleksandar Vucic and Hashim Thaci in order to create conditions for the idea of delimitation and recognition of Kosovo independence.“
Bishop of Raska-Prizren Teodosije also strongly condemned the „excessive use of force by the Kosovo Police in the north of Kosovo“. He said that such events “benefit” the advocates of the idea of delimitation, and blamed the Kosovo authorities for their selective approach in ensuring the rule of law.
On the other hand, Kosovo officials praised this action, presenting it as an effort towards Kosovo’s commitment to strengthening the rule of law.
Kosovo is ready to „fight organized crime, corruption and abuse of office, and urges everyone to support such actions,“ said Kosovo Foreign Minister, Behgjet Pacolli.
Kosovo Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj agreed with Pacolli’s assessment.
On the other hand, the President of the Kosovo Assembly, Kadri Veseli said that no one will be spared in the fight against crime.
He also urged Serb citizens to maintain peace and to avoid propaganda.
Kosovo opposition movement, the Self-Determination estimated that the police showed a readiness and capacities to fight crime with this action, but also that crime is not only present in the north, and that no one should be above the law.
The European Union also reacted, saying that „police operations should bring confidence in the rule of law for all communities, and such actions must be conducted in accordance with the law and the public should be informed in an appropriate manner.”
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