Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced Belgrade and Pristina will exchange information about the murder of Kosovo-Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic during an official visit to Kosovo on Saturday.
After meeting local Serb leaders in the ethnic Serb-majority north of Kosovo, Vucic described solving Ivanovic’s murder as the “key” to dispelling anxiety and fear among the local ethnic Serb population, adding that there will be “no mercy” for those responsible.
“To us, the nationality of the killer is unimportant,” Vucic told the media during a press conference held after a three-hour meeting with Serb politicians in the northern municipality of Mitrovica. Mitrovica is split, with the south being mainly ethnic Albanian.
Before he started speaking, a group of people shouted at him in Serbian, calling on him to protect the population.
“President, help us all! We are all targeted, we are guilty of being Serbs,” a man was heard shouting, before his group was removed from the building.
Vucic’s Kosovo visit aims to reduce tensions among local Serbs following the killing of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic on Tuesday.
The well-known politician was gunned down in front of his party’s office in Mitrovica. Investigators are yet to reveal the motive for his killing.
The Serbian president kicked off his visit at the Banjska Monastery, where he was greeted by a crowd of around a thousand people.
There he told members of the media that Belgrade and Pristina will exchange information in Ivanovic’s murder investigation, despite Kosovo rejecting Serbia’s request to participate in the investigation.
From there Vucic went to the city of Mitrovica where he laid a wreath at the scene of Oliver Ivanovic’s murder.
Vucic laying a wreath at the scene of Oliver Ivanovic’s murder. Photo: BIRN
Pristina ‘has effective jurisdiction’
After meeting local Serb politicians, Vucic emphasised policy towards Albanians must be peaceful.
“I believe it is important to have a conversation and we will maintain it. The Pristina authorities have effective jurisdiction here [in northern Kosovo],” Vucic said.
Local Albanians and Serbs that BIRN spoke to mostly approved of Vucic’s visit, although it was viewed differently.
“He should be coming all of the time! Let the Shiptars see that we have a president and that this country is Serbia,” said Stevan Virijevic, 58, a Kosovo Serb refugee from the southern town of Klina, using a derogatory term for Albanians.
“I don’t really mind if [Vucic] comes or not. I think it was a good decision from our institutions to allow this visit. He is coming to a new state,” Hamez Uka, a 37-year-old Kosovo Albanian from Mitrovica said.
Abedin Selimi, a 25-year-old Kosovo Albanian resident of the northern municipality of Zubin Potok, says that Serbia and Kosovo should cooperate and have good neighbouring relationships because “this situation can’t continue the way it is now”.
“Vucic should be allowed to visit Kosovo, but [Serbia] should also allow our leaders to visit,” Selimi said.
Milena, a middle-aged Kosovo Serb from Mitrovica who did not want to reveal her last name, is a lot more pessimistic.
“My daughter is studying in Kragujevac [in Serbia] as of this year, and I made her swear never to return, even after me and my husband die. Kosovo to [Vucic] is like Syria to me – I know people out there are hurting, but I have other business,” she said.
Kosovo analysts, meanwhile, see Vucic’s visit mostly as an attempt to score political points.
The Kosovo police force denied widespread reports in the Serbian media that handguns, knives and sticks were impounded from a group of Albanians in a village near Laplje Selo, which Vucic will visit Saturday evening.