Enclave arrests "could influence Kosovo dialogue"

BELGRADE, PRIŠTINA -- Aleksandar Vulin has warned that arrests of Serbs in an enclave in Kosovo on Orthodox Christmas could adversely influence the Kosovo dialogue.

Vulin (C) is seen in Gračanica on Monday (Tanjug)
Vulin (C) is seen in Gračanica on Monday (Tanjug)

Nine Serbs were arrested in Gračanica on Monday, and then transferred to Priština. The incident happened during Vulin's visit there.

"The arrests were a straightforward provocation, crude violence, that was truly caused by nothing... This is about straightforward lawlessness and injustice," the head of the government office for Kosovo told Serbia's public broadcaster RTS on Tuesday.

He added that he had unofficially learned that the representatives of the interim institutions in Priština - i.e. the Kosovo Albanian authorities - "do not know what the charge the Serbs with", so they are considering charges that range from disturbing the peace, to violating "the constitutional order".

Asked "how Serbia should and can react", Vulin said the state would "monitor the developments and provide legal assistance to those arrested":

"We'll see what the political decision of the representatives of the interim institutions will be. So that's, 'political', rather than 'legal', because this has nothing to do with the law. We will undertake our next measures depending on their political decision. In any case we will not abandon our people."

As for the Belgrade-Priština talks, set to continue in Brussels under EU sponsorship on January 17, Vulin said the incident could influence them "in a bad way".

"Serbia has demonstrated countless times how much it is dedicated to peace. My visit to Gračanica on Christmas was a message of peace, and Serbia's desire to show that we see a solution to the Kosmet (Kosovo and Metohija) problem only through peace. The Priština side clearly has some complexes and fears that it cures through violence," the Kosovo office chief stated.

According to him, the international community should consider whether its unconditional support for Priština can continue - "because that support may be interpreted by Priština as readiness to perpetrate all forms of violence".

"We have said it countless times that the end of supervised independence was a tragic mistake. The international community and Priština must understand that there will be no lasting and just solution in Kosovo and Metohija without the consent of Serbia and the Serbs who live there," Vulin told RTS.

"Kosovo police raided Serbian monastery"

Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Bishop Teodosije of Ras-Prizren said Monday that the Kosovo police raided the Gračanica monastery on Christmas Day, casting a shadow on the celebrations by its inappropriate and provocative actions.

Nine men from northern Kosovo were detained after the Christmas liturgy at Gračanica on Monday.

"With actions of this kind, the Kosovo police is deterring people from visiting their holy sites and demonstrating brutal force in a highly primitive fashion," believes Teodosije.

"Considering the incidents the Kosovo police caused on St. Vitus Day, June 28 last year, it is practically a rule that every Orthodox holiday is accompanied by fear of police terror and arrests," the Diocese of Ras-Prizren said in a release.

Bishop Teodosije also expressed great dissatisfaction with the Kosovo institutions' improper treatment of Serbian officials, who are banned from visiting SPC sites or forced, as Aleksandar Vulin was on Monday, to urgently leave Gračanica before the end of the ceremony.

A similar incident occurred a few months ago, when Bishop Teodosije received a visit from advisor to the Serbian president Marko Đurić, who was later brutally expelled from the territory of Kosovo.

According to Teodosije, foreign representatives were also confused and shocked by the actions of the police on Monday.

"Serbs detained for Vulin's safety"

The Kosovo police has said the nine people arrested in Gračanica on Monday were suspicious because "they kept following the police detail assigned to Aleksandar Vulin", the head of the Serbian Government Office for Kosovo.

Brahim Sadriu, a spokesman for the Kosovo police, told Priština media late on Monday that "the men looked suspicious so the police detained them".

He said the Kosovo police was in charge of Vulin's security during his visits to the Serb municipalities and neighborhoods in Kosovo.

"For the safety of the persons the Kosovo police was guarding in Gračanica on Monday, the police brought in nine people under reasonable suspicion in order to ID and run a check on them. The police has contacted the prosecutor's office and they have authorized us to proceed," said Sadriu.

The Albanian language media in Priština are reporting the detained men were part of Vulin's security. They were transported from the Serb enclave to a police station to Priština, where they were brought before a prosecutor.