Gendarmes remove controversial monument

PREŠEVO -- Members of the Serbian police (MUP) Gendarmerie unit removed a controversial monument in downtown Preševo around 7:15 CET on Sunday.

(Tanjug)
(Tanjug)

According to reports, there were no incidents.

Around 200 Gendarmerie officers came to the southern town’s main square this morning with heavy machines. They used a bulldozer to dislodge the monument and then lifted it onto a truck.

Aside from the Gendarmerie officers, Gendarmerie Commander Bratislav Dikić, Vranje Police Administration Chief Slađan Velinović and Preševo police station commander Avdi Bajrami and his deputies were present during the removal.

Small number of citizens watched the operation from nearby buildings.

The square was completely cleaned after the Gendarmerie removed the monument.

Former UCPMB commander Orhan Rexhepi told reporters at the scene that this was a “historic day” because “Bujanovac and Preševo will become a part of Kosovo”. He also thanked Serbia “for giving Albanian councilors in three municipalities in southern Serbia a reason to voice their opinion on territorial autonomy”.

Serbian Prime Minister and Interior Minister Ivica Dačić has said that the Gendarmerie officers removed the illegal monument on Justice Ministry’s order, bearing in mind that all legal deadlines for its removal have expired.

“Serbia has shown enough patience but it has also sent a clear and firm message that the law needs to be respected and that nobody is more powerful than the state,” he told Tanjug.

He added that the operation had been carried out “without any incidents and use of force”.

The monument honoring members of the so-called Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđa, and Bujanovac (UCPMB) was erected in November 2012. Serbian top officials said it would have to be removed by January 17, when the fourth round of the Belgrade-Priština negotiations was scheduled.

The now disbanded ethnic Albanian group in 2000 and 2001 launched attacks against policemen, soldiers, and civilians in southern Serbia, and was considered a terrorist organization.

The monument was not removed within the envisaged deadline and Preševo municipal councilors have adopted a decision aimed at legalizing the monument.