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Kosovo war veterans block road to stop visit by Serbian president

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Kosovo war veterans block road to stop visit by Serbian president

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VOJTESH, Kosovo (Reuters) - About 200 Kosovo war veterans blocked the road leading to Banje ahead of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic's planned visit to the village later on Sunday.

Kosovo, which has a population of 1.8 million and is mainly ethnic Albanian, declared independence from Belgrade in 2008, almost a decade after NATO air strikes ousted Serbian forces and halted a crackdown on ethnic Albanians in a counter-insurgency.

It is now recognised by more than 100 nations but not by Serbia, Russia and five EU states.

A minority of Kosovo's remaining Serbians live in small enclaves in areas mainly populated by Albanians who account for more than 90 percent of the Kosovo population. The majority of Kosovo's Serbs live in northern areas bordering Serbia and do not recognise Pristina institutions.

"Vucic should apologise for crimes committed and massacres all over Kosovo," said one banner on the road to Banje, which was blocked by cars and a truck.

"Vucic will not pass," another read.

The Serbian president had told reporters in the morning that he will try to use a bypass road to visit the village.

Normalising bilateral ties is a key condition for both Kosovo and Serbia to advance towards their eventual goal of EU membership.

Expectations of an agreement that would involve a land swap proposed by both Belgrade and Pristina dimmed after a face-to-face meeting between Vucic and his Kosovo counterpart, Hashim Thaci, was abruptly cancelled on Friday.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by David Goodman)

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