When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Serbia And Kosovo: A Local Conflict Turns Dangerously International

Tension are rising between Serbia and Kosovo, taking on an international dimension with Russia lending its support to Serbia, while NATO has long had a presence in Kosovo. There is only one real solution to such a historic feud over territory and ethnicity, and it's called: Europe.

photo of garbage bins blocking the road

A roadblock as the conflict simmers near the northern Kosovo city of Mitrovica

Predrag Milosavljevic/Xinhua via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS An unresolved conflict is always a potential time bomb. That's what happened last week in the Caucasus, with Azerbaijan's recapture of Nagorno-Karabakh, driving thousands of Armenians into exile. And it is also what is threatening Europe's southern flank, with violence breaking out between Serbia and Kosovo.

Kosovo, a state with a predominantly Albanian population, was born 25 years ago, during the war that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia. The region has recently seen a string of violence that might otherwise seem local in nature.

It began with the assassination of a Kosovar policeman, followed by a battle with an armed Serbian commando, which had taken refuge in an Orthodox monastery near Serbia. Three of the attackers were killed, six others captured, and the authorities reported the discovery of a war arsenal. For Kosovo officials, it was a commando group "supported and organized by Serbia.”

This affair has raised tensions with neighboring Serbia, which still does not recognize Kosovo's sovereignty. Belgrade supports the Serbian minority living in the north of the country, precisely where the incidents took place.

Rising tensions 

Tensions have been mounting for weeks, with friction surrounding four Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo. Serbian voters boycotted the municipal elections, where Albanian mayors had been imposed on them. This is what set off the current unrest.

Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti is a nationalist who wants to put an end to Serbian nationalist claims. But he is not only facing fierce resistance from the 40,000 or so Serbian inhabitants, but also criticism from Kosovo's European and American "sponsors," who see him as a provocateur.

Russia was enthusiastically ready to add fuel to a fire that involves NATO countries.

It's a local micro-conflict that should remain local, but is rapidly turning into an international crisis. Firstly, because Serbia and Kosovo still have no diplomatic relations and any dispute has the potential to degenerate into confrontation.

photo of czech soldiers in military fatigues with a NATO flag in background

Czech soldiers who served on a NATO mission in Kosovo

Vit Simanek/CTK via ZUMA

Russia lends its support 

But also on Monday, Russia lent its support to Serbia in this nascent crisis, enthusiastically ready to add fuel to a fire that involves NATO countries. A quarter century after its independence, Kosovo is still under the protection of NATO, which has a military presence there.

Around 100 of the UN's 190 member states currently recognize Kosovo, the rest refusing to recognize the partition of Serbia's Albanians. The European Union is trying hard to mediate between Belgrade and Pristina, using the carrot of an EU membership by 2030. But this prospect still seems too uncertain to calm nationalist impulses on both sides.

Yet it is only the European solution that can ultimately pacify an inextricable conflict, as it has done elsewhere. There is an urgent need to extinguish the fire that is being rekindled in the heart of the Balkans.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

War, Corruption And The Overdue Demise Of Ukrainian Oligarchs

The invasion of Russia has forced Ukraine to confront a domestic enemy: corruption and economic control by an insular and unethical elite.

Photograph of three masked demonstrators holding black smoke lights.

May 21, 2021, Ukraine: Demonstrators hold smoke bombs outside the Appeal Court of Kyiv.

Olena Khudiakova/ZUMA
Guillaume Ptak


KYIV — Since Russia’s invasion, Ukraine's all-powerful oligarchs have lost a significant chunk of their wealth and political influence. However, the fight against the corruption that plagues the country is only just beginning.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

On the morning of September 2, several men wearing balaclavas and bullet-proof waistcoats bearing the initials "SBU" arrived at the door of an opulent mansion in Dnipro, Ukraine's fourth largest city. Facing them, his countenance frowning behind thin-rimmed glasses, was the owner of the house, the oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky.

Officers from the Ukrainian security services had come to hand him a "suspicion notice" as part of an investigation into "fraud" and "money laundering". His home was searched, and shortly afterwards he was remanded in custody, with bail set at 509 million hryvnias, or more than €1.3 million. A photo of the operation published that very morning by the security services was widely shared on social networks and then picked up by various media outlets.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest