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Tensions high in Kosovo after Serbia charges Kosovar police officers

FILE - Women attach Serbian flags in front of the city hall AT a protest in the town of Zvecan, northern Kosovo, on May 31, 2023.
FILE - Women attach Serbian flags in front of the city hall AT a protest in the town of Zvecan, northern Kosovo, on May 31, 2023. Copyright AP / Bojan Slavkovic
Copyright AP / Bojan Slavkovic
By Daniel Bellamy with AP
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Kosovo's Prime Minister accused Serbia of "kidnapping" the three police officers inside Kosovo on Wednesday.

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Kosovo's prime minister told Euronews on Friday tensions remained high after what he described as Serbia's "kidnapping" of three police officers inside Kosovo on Wednesday.

But Serbia insists it legally arrested the officers inside Serbian territory.

Meanwhile, in a statement on Friday, the NATO peacekeeping mission said it remained unclear where the officers were at the time of their detention.

Serbia has opened legal proceedings on Friday against the officers, defying US and other demands for their immediate and unconditional release.

Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti spoke to Euronews on the sidelines of the PRESPA forum in North Macedonia about the legal proceedings.

"After sentencing 30 days with additional detention in remand for our three abducted policemen in the northern municipality of Leposavic inside the territory of Kosovo by special military units of Serbian and police and military," Kurti said.

"This is a very tense situation that I need to go back and analyse and in due time reply to Mr Borrell who asked for a meeting for next week."

Josep Borrell, who is the EU's foreign policy chief, has called for both leaders to meet for urgent talks in Brussels.

In a further sign of the rising tension, Kosovo's main TV station tweeted that one of its media teams was attacked while trying to report from Leposavic.

The latest dispute adds to tensions between the two countries that have flared into recent violent clashes in the Serb-majority north of Kosovo, stirring fears of a renewal of the 1998-99 conflict in Kosovo that left more than 10,000 people dead, mostly Kosovo Albanians.

The US on Thursday joined calls from the European Union and other Western countries on both Kosovo and Belgrade to “take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions”.

“That includes the unconditional release of the three detained Kosovo police officers,” the US State Department said.

The latest incident further raised tensions between Serbia and its former province. Serbia had put its troops on the border on the highest state of alert amid a series of recent clashes between Kosovo Serbs on one side, and Kosovo police and NATO-led peacekeepers on the other.

Tensions flared anew late last month, including with violent clashes, after Kosovo police seized local municipality buildings in northern Kosovo, where Serbs represent a majority, to install ethnic Albanian mayors who were elected in a local election in April after Serbs overwhelmingly boycotted the vote.

The tensions persisted on Friday with three shock grenades exploding near Kosovo police stations in the north of the country, and with Kosovo Serbs staging protests in front of municipality buildings.

Serbia and its former province Kosovo have been at odds for decades, with Belgrade refusing to recognise Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.

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