Kosovar Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla has blamed “illegal Serbian groups” allegedly seeking to “disrupt the work of the Kosovo authorities” for an August 6 attack on border police, while also claiming that the judgment of a Russian journalist trying to cross into the country from Serbia was a sign that Russia was supporting alleged Serbian efforts to destabilize Kosovo.
Authorities in Kosovo said on August 6 that a police unit came under fire earlier that day near the country’s border with Serbia, where tensions have been high between the two neighboring Western Balkan nations.
Svecla claimed on August 6 that the unnamed groups said to be behind the incident had the protection and public support of unidentified Serbian structures.
Later that day, Svecla emphasized that Russian journalist Daria Aslamova’s attempted entry and arrest the same day coincided with recent unrest in the country’s north and with the shooting incident.
Svecla announced on Facebook on August 7 that Aslamova, a correspondent with the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, had been declared an “undesirable person in the Republic of Kosovo.”
Kosovar authorities have launched an investigation into the August 6 shooting incident, in which they say 10 shots were fired at a border-surveillance unit attempting to launch a patrol boat in Lake Uyman near the town of Zubin Potok.
Municipalities in northern Kosovo — including Zubin Potok, northern Mitrovica, Zvecan, and Leposaviq — are inhabited by an ethnic-Serbian majority in the mainly ethnic-Albanian country.
Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have risen recently after Kosovo said it would require Serbs living in the north of the country and using Serbian car license plates to apply for plates issued by Kosovar authorities.
Ethnic-Serbian protesters blocked border crossings in the region in protest at the requirements.
Kosovar authorities agreed to delay implementation of the requirements for 30 days after the border barricades were removed.
Svecla said on Facebook on August 6 that the Russian journalist who was arrested that day was detained after allegedly trying to cross the border into Kosovo from Serbia.
Svecla posted pictures of the journalistwhom he identified as Daria Aslamova, that appeared to show her with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as well as in camouflage and posing with unidentified soldiers.
Svecla accused Aslamova of working for Russian intelligence and of only posing as a journalist, and said security authorities were trying to determine “her intentions.” The Kosovar interior minister also said her attempt to enter Kosovo indicated that “Russia has joined Serbia’s propaganda with the aim of destabilizing our country.”
Svecla also accused Aslamova of participating in Russia’s war against Ukraine by “propagandizing about the Russian invasion” launched by Moscow in February.
in a separate Facebook post on August 7, Svecla announced that he had declared Aslamova to be an “undesirable person” in Kosovo, saying that “anyone who, with certain purposes or directives, violates or attempts to destabilize the country, will face without question the force of the law in the Republic of Kosovo.”
As an “undesirable person,” Aslamova will be barred from entering Kosovo for five years.
Aslamova, according to Svecla on August 6, was barred from entering “many countries” for her activities. RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service has reported that she was denied entry to Moldova in 2017 while working for Komsomolskaya Pravda because she could not justify the reason for her visit.
Former Moldovan President Igor Dodon, who is considered to be pro-Russia, criticized the Moldovan security services for denying Aslamova entry and said she had planned to interview him.
Komsomolskaya Pravda said without addressing Svecla’s accusations that she had been released and was now in Serbia. Russia has not responded to Svecla’s claim about aiming to destabilize Kosovo.
Russia is a main ally of Serbia and does not recognize Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Belgrade.
Kosovo has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and is a potential candidate for accession to the European Union.
About 50,000 ethnic-Serbs live in the north of Kosovo, but they do not recognize the country’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia, and they maintain close ties to Belgrade.
Western-backed Kosovo is recognized by more than 100 countries, although not by Serbia, Russia, China, and others.
With reporting by Reuters and RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service