Kosovar Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla accused “illegal Serb groups” who allegedly sought to “disrupt the work of the Kosovo authorities” of attacking border police on August 6, while claiming that the arrest of a Russian journalist attempting to enter the country from Serbia was a sign that Russia supported alleged Serbian efforts to destabilize Kosovo.
Kosovo authorities said on August 6 that a police unit had come under fire earlier in the day near the country’s border with Serbia, where tensions were high between the two neighboring Western Balkan countries.
Svecla claimed on August 6 that the anonymous groups believed to be behind the incident had the protection and public support of unidentified Serbian structures.
Later in the day, Svecla pointed out that the attempted entry and arrest of Russian journalist Daria Aslamova on the same day coincided with the recent unrest in the north of the country and the shooting.
Svecla announced on August 7 on Facebook that Aslamova, a correspondent for the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, had been declared an “undesirable person in the Republic of Kosovo”.
Kosovo authorities have opened an investigation into the August 6 shooting, in which they say 10 shots were fired at a border guard unit trying to launch a patrol boat on Lake Uyman near the town of Zubin Potok.
Municipalities in northern Kosovo – including Zubin Potok, northern Mitrovica, Zvecan and Leposaviq – are inhabited by an ethnic Serb majority in the predominantly ethnic Albanian country.
Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have recently increased after Kosovo said it would force Serbs living in the north of the country and using Serbian license plates to apply for plates issued by Kosovo authorities.
Ethnic Serb demonstrators blocked border crossings in the region to protest the demands.
Kosovo authorities have agreed to delay the implementation of the demands for 30 days after the removal of border barricades.
Svecla said on Facebook on August 6 that the Russian journalist arrested that day was arrested after allegedly trying to cross the Kosovo border from Serbia.
Svecla posted pictures of the reporterwhom he identified as Daria Aslamova, which appeared to show her with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as well as in camouflage and posing with unidentified soldiers.
Svecla accused Aslamova of working for Russian intelligence and posing as a journalist, and said security authorities were trying to determine “her intentions”. The Kosovo interior minister also said her attempt to enter Kosovo indicated that “Russia has joined Serbia’s propaganda with the aim of destabilizing our country.”
Svecla also accused Aslamova of participating in Russia’s war against Ukraine by “propaganda about the Russian invasion” launched by Moscow in February.
In a separate Facebook post on August 7, Svecla announced that he had declared Aslamova an “undesirable person” in Kosovo, saying that “anyone who, with certain objectives or directives, violates or tries to destabilize the country, will undoubtedly face the force of law in the Republic of Kosovo.”
As an “undesirable person”, Aslamova will be banned from entering Kosovo for five years.
Aslamova, according to Svecla on August 6, has been banned from entering “many countries” for her activities. RFE/RL’s Moldovan service reported that she was refused entry to Moldova in 2017 while working for Komsomolskaya Pravda because she could not justify the reason for her visit.
Former Moldovan President Igor Dodon, seen as pro-Russian, criticized Moldovan security services for refusing Aslamova entry and said she planned to question him.
Komsomolskaya Pravda said without responding to Svecla’s accusations that she had been released and was now in Serbia. Russia has not responded to Svecla’s claim that he aimed to destabilize Kosovo.
Russia is a main ally of Serbia and does not recognize Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Belgrade.
Kosovo has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and is a potential candidate for European Union membership.
Around 50,000 ethnic Serbs live in northern Kosovo, but they do not recognize the country’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and maintain close ties with Belgrade.
Western-backed Kosovo is recognized by more than 100 countries, but not by Serbia, Russia, China and others.