Shortage of medicine, foodstuffs, and money at ATMs. This is how Dejan Nedeljkovic, a publicist from Banjska in the municipality of Zvecan, describes the current situation in the north of Kosovo in a statement for Radio Free Europe.
Local Serbs have been blocking roads in the north since December 10th due to the arrest of former policeman Dejan Pantic.
The main traffic roads in the north, which the local population uses for supplies and movement, are blocked by heavy machinery, and due to the deterioration of the security situation, the Kosovo police closed two border crossings in that region – Jarinje and Brnjak.
“Everything is closed. There is less and less food in the stores. On the other hand, there is no money in the accounts in Serbian banks, there is no money in the ATMs for a few days. The money does not arrive because it is not allowed to arrive via alternative routes and it is forbidden for it to go through (border)crossings. All this makes life difficult,” he says.
Are citizens being blackmailed to go to the barricades?
Aleksandar Jablanovic, leader of the Party of Kosovo Serbs, concludes that the current situation in the north arose as a result of the barricades, due to which the residents of Severna Mitrovica, Zvecani, Zubin Potok, and Leposavic cannot move freely.
He also believes that the Serbian List (Srpska lista), a party that has the support of Belgrade, is responsible for the new situation. He claims that officials of that party are blackmailing people to go to the barricades.
Fear of conflict
Veroljub Petronic, on the other hand, notes that the narrative coming from politicians in Pristina and Belgrade, as well as misinformation that has led to complete uncertainty, is to blame for the tensions.
“Most Serbs are now afraid of the decisions of the Government of Kosovo, what the police will do, whether KFOR (Kosovo Force – NATO mission) will protect them and whether there will be a conflict… Also, those who are at the barricades are afraid that someone uninvited will come and disrupt security, in the sense that there fear of fierce firefight with KFOR or the Kosovo Police, in which case there would be chaos, after which there is no going back,” mentioned Petronic.
The authorities in Serbia state that the Government of Kosovo, led by Prime Minister Albin Kurti, is planning to “persecute” the Serbs.
The United States (U.S.) special envoy for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, said in an interview on December 13th that the barricades should be removed by those who set them up, RSE reports.