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HomeBalkansIn Kosovo Clash, New Bullets and Freshly-Repaired Mortars from Serbia

In Kosovo Clash, New Bullets and Freshly-Repaired Mortars from Serbia


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Some of the weaponry seized from Serb gunmen in northern Kosovo last month passed through Serbian state hands at some point over the past five years, including bullets that were made only last year, BIRN can report.

BIRN used OSINT and interviews with sources to identify the type, manufacturing company and year of the production of the weapons.

BIRN’s analysis of the markings on the weapons and ammunition seized by Kosovo police, including mortar rounds and grenade launchers, does not prove how they ended up in the hands of the group, which was led by Kosovo Serb powerbroker Milan Radoicic, then deputy leader of the Srpska Lista political party and which is closely linked with Serbia’s ruling Progressive Party.

But it does suggest the weapons were either stolen from state warehouses, sold to a private arms merchant who sold or gave them to Radoicic, or handed over by the state.

They included MRUD anti-personnel mines,  60mm M73 mortar rounds, M80 ‘Zolja’ anti-tank rocket launchers, and an M93 automatic grenade launcher, all of which were put on display by the Kosovo police.

The mortar rounds and anti-tank rocket launchers had passed through state maintenance centres in central Serbia in 2018 and 2021 respectively, BIRN can confirm.

Serbia’s president and government have denied having anything to do with the actions of Radoicic’s gunmen, who killed a Kosovo Albanian police officer in the early hours of September 24 in a predominantly Serb-populated part of northern Kosovo, before barricading themselves in the grounds of an Orthodox monastery. Three gunmen were killed in the police operation that followed. Kosovo’s government says Radoicic’s involvement is a clear indicator of Serbian state support, something Radoicic himself has dismissed.

Most interesting is the ammunition, which includes assault rifle bullets – 7.62x39mm – that match those made in 2022 by the Belom factory, Serbia newest state arms producer.

“This is really new ammo and Serbian authorities can trace who it was sold to,” said Novica Antic, a senior official of the Serbian Army Union. “The Serbian state should be the one most interested in investigating this.”

Serbian Defence Minister Milos Vucevic has said the fact the weapons were manufactured in Serbia proves nothing, holding up photos showing even police in Kosovo using Serbian-made weapons.

The defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Assault rifle bullets

Among the ammunition were 7.62x39mm bullets, a common assault rifle round, clearly labelled with the production year 2022. 

The markings and their position on the bullets seized by the Kosovo police clearly correspond with those on the same caliber bullets advertised on the official website of Belom, the newest addition to Serbia’s arms industry having been registered in the Serbian business registry in 2016.

Its ultimate owner is state arms giant Yugoimport SDPR, while the factory uses equipment and machinery bought from Belgian machinery manufacturer NLC in a deal previously reported on by BIRN and which, according to KPMG auditors, was to the detriment of Serbian taxpayers.

The machinery bought from NLC is exactly the kind used to produce 7.62×39 mm rounds, the kind used by Radoicic’s group.

BIRN submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Internal and External Export asking about the export of Belom ammunition of this type produced in 2022, in order to identify possible buyers. There had been no reply by the time of publication.



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