Kosovar authorities warned that equipping Serbia with Russian weapons presents threatening messages from the Serbian state to Kosovo, while urging Belgrade to put an end to alleged threats.
Reactions followed a visit by Serbian Army Chief of Staff Milan Mojsilovic to Moscow, where he was quoted as saying that Russian colleagues had specifically analyzed the situation in Kosovo and that Serbia had the backing of the Russian military leadership regarding its operation on the Kosovo issue.
Kosovo’s resigned Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj wrote on social media that “the new commander of the infamous old army of Serbia, Milan Mojsilovic, has stated that they have the support of the Russian army for the challenges in Kosovo. We remind him that Slobodan Milosevic thought the same way, but got it bad. They should stop these provocations,” he wrote.
Kosovo Ministry of Defense officials say the provocations and threatening messages of the Serbian state towards Kosovo have recently deepened.
Deputy Defense Minister Burim Ramadani told VOA that these messages are threatening to the Balkans as a whole.
“Normally they are threatening messages not only the Balkan states but also international NATO partners should take seriously and at the same time see that unfortunately the mentality, logic and way of thinking in Serbia has not changed; on the contrary, Russia is in a more misguided orientation,” Ramadani said.
Serbia, a traditional Russian ally, aspires to join the European Union, but walks the narrow line between Russia and the West. Russia strongly opposes Serbia’s possible NATO membership, while in recent years it has supplied Serbia with weapons, which has heightened both regional and international concerns.
Atlantic Council Vice President Damon Wilson told VOA in Serbian that a country aspiring to join the European Union should not receive weapons from Moscow.
“Serbia’s path to the European Union is through normalizing relations with Kosovo, not through Russian weapons, not through weapons from Moscow. As long as Kosovo is an open issue, we will see Russian efforts, we will see Serbian games, all those contradictory decisions,” Wilson said, noting that current decisions could be detrimental to Serbia’s intentions.
Ramadani says Russia’s arming of Serbia sends a bad signal to countries in the region with the intention of dividing it.
“Knowing that all the states around Serbia are either in NATO or have an extremely large NATO presence as is the case in Kosovo and at the same time Serbia is trying to isolate itself so to do it differently from everyone else, by interacting with Russia. These are long-term threat messages, so they are not threat messages at the moment and at the same time puts the level of regional cooperation in question as far as Russia is concerned,” Ramadani said.
Last week, Serbia received tanks and armor as a gift from Russia, which has helped Serbia modernize its armed forces.
Serbia has already received six MiG-29 fighter jets from Russia, and although it claims to be militarily neutral, it is negotiating additional arms purchases from Moscow, including fighter helicopters and armored carriers and air defense systems.