Belgrade scrambled fighters after UAVs were spotted above military bases near Kosovo
The Serbian military has orders to immediately destroy any hostile drones in the country’s airspace, President Aleksandar Vucic announced on Tuesday. The new rules of engagement come after MiG-29 interceptors were sent to fend off UAVs spotted above military bases near the boundary with the breakaway province of Kosovo.
Multiple unmanned aerial vehicles were detected above a military facility near Merdare, one of the designated crossings between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia, and Vucic ordered the military to deploy planes with orders to shoot. The drones then quickly withdrew, the media in Belgrade reported. The order to shoot down any hostile drone remains in effect, however.
Defense Minister Milos Vucevic revealed earlier on Tuesday that the military has already been placed on high alert “to be prepared to respond to any task,” as the ethnic Albanian administration in Kosovo attempted to coerce Serbs living there to change their car license plates and documents.
Kosovo was occupied by NATO in 1999 and its ethnic Albanian provisional government declared independence in 2008, with the support of the US and its allies. Belgrade has refused to recognize the breakaway province, and is backed by Russia and China, among others.
The government in Pristina says its order encompasses the whole province, including territories where Serbs remain in the majority. Previous attempt to impose license plate and ID rules, at the end of July, escalated into a military standoff until the US ambassador intervened and asked for a delay.
Belgrade says it wants peace but won’t allow another “pogrom” of Serbs. It also accuses Pristina of failing to fulfill any of its obligations from multiple agreements mediated by the EU – such as giving the Serbs autonomy – even as it cites those agreements as justification for the document crackdown.
Vucic has repeatedly said he wants Serbia to join the EU and that he won’t recognize Kosovo – even though Brussels demands such recognition as a prerequisite for membership.
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