Kosovo expels Serbian official after arrest during protest
Marko Djuric was held after he illegally entered Kosovo.
A Serbian official arrested during protests in northern Kosovo has been released and expelled from the country.
Marko Djuric, Serbia’s chief negotiator in EU-mediated talks with Kosovo, was arrested after he illegally entered the country.
Kosovan President Hashim Thaci said police accompanied Mr Djuric to the border crossing between Kosovo and Serbia.
He called for calm, saying: “This case should not violate the communication between Kosovo and Serbia … the efforts for normalisation, for good inter-neighbourly ties and reconciliation between Kosovo and Serbia.”
Video footage showed Kosovan policemen in black uniforms with machine guns and body armour leading a handcuffed man from inside a building towards an armoured car.
Video also showed a conference room inside the building in northern Mitrovica with chairs and tables upended.
The arrest triggered protests and Kosovan police responded by firing tear gas and stun grenades, reports said.
Serbian TV said a cameraman was injured and his equipment destroyed during the incident.
“The brutal police action is surprising. Maybe they want to provoke a Serbian reaction,” said Milovan Drecun, who heads a Serbian parliamentary committee dealing with Kosovo.
Serbian media said President Aleksandar Vucic would speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the incident.
Moscow has supported the Serbian claim over its former province of Kosovo.
Friction between Serbia and Kosovo has increased recently as the EU presses for a compromise between the two foes on a number of issues.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade does not recognise the split and is seeking to maintain influence in Kosovo’s north, where most of the country’s Serb minority is located.
Before the reported arrest, Kosovan police sent reinforcements to stop four senior Serb government officials from visiting Kosovo’s north, but two of them arrived in the Serb-part of the divided town of Mitrovica later on Monday.
Serbia’s state Tanjug news agency said Serbia’s defence minister, the chief Serb negotiator, a senior aide of Mr Vucic and the country’s culture minister were banned from entering Kosovo.
Serb officials earlier said they would hold the visit despite the decision by Kosovo authorities to prohibit their entry. Serb officials must seek official clearance from Kosovo’s authorities before any visit.
Kosovan foreign minister Behgjet Pacolli had warned that none of the senior Serb officials had permission to enter Kosovo.
“Whoever enters Kosovo illegally will get arrested!” he wrote.