Serbs celebrate Vidovdan in Kosovo

The celebration of Vidovdan started in Kosovo this morning with the Holy Liturgy served in the Serbian Orthodox monastery of Gračanica.

Source: B92, Beta, Tanjug
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Serbs mark Vidovdan (St. Vitus Day) as a religious and national holiday.

The province is calm and there are no incidents reported this Sunday, as Kosovo police, KPS, and KFOR members have visibly increased their presence near the Serb enclave of Gračanica, and also near Kosovska Mitrovica and Gazimestan.

This year's Vidovdan celebrations have gathered the largest crowd seen since 1999, with several thousand people in Gazimestan, near Priština, attending a commemoration of the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo.

On this day 620 years ago, the Serb army, led by Lazar Hrebeljanović, confronted the invading Ottoman Turks.

Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Patriarch Pavle's emissary Metropolitan Amfilohije and bishops Artemije, Filaret and Teodosije served a religious ceremony dedicated to the souls of the fallen soldiers of the medieval Serbian empire – commonly referred to as the Kosovo heroes.

After the ceremony, Bishop Artemije told the crowd that "the Kosovo heroes have given their lives so that we can live in Kosovo and Metohija today."

The Serbs have gathered in Gazimestan, the bishop continued, to pray to the Lord and tell themselves and others that this is the holy Serb land, soaked with blood and tears of our ancestors.

"Kosovo was and will be the heart of Serbia, just as it was 620 years ago," he said.

The participants in the ceremonies today arrived in some 60 buses and several hundred private vehicles from all over Serbia, but also from Montenegro and the Republic of Srpska. KPS members and Czech KFOR soldiers secured the area close to the Gazimestan monument.

Unlike in previous years, this time a stage was set up, while the monument was draped with a huge Serbian national flag and a canvass with the fresco image of Holy Tsar Lazar.

Both the Gazimestan commemoration, and the one earlier in the day in the monastery of Gračanica were attended by government ministers Bogoljub Šijaković, Goran Bogdanović and Nebojša Bradić, and Crown Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević and his wife Katarina.

See more photos from Vidovdan celebrations

Yesterday, Bodganović's motorcade was pelted with stones near Leposavić in northern Kosovo.

The 1389 Movement "took responsibility" for the incident, reports said late on Saturday.

Šijaković and President Boris Tadić's adviser Mlađan Đorđević were also in the cars that came under attack. Leposavić police chief Dragan Stefanović said that no one was injured.

Two cars were slightly damaged, while officially, the perpetrators remain unknown, reports said.

But the Movement issued a statement saying that the stoning was done by its members and Leposavić residents who have spent the past four days at a road block nearby.

They decided to "stop Minister Bogdanović and ask for an apology" after his statement that the barricades in the north are "a mere provocation".

The movement said that the minister drove around the barricade, but that they attempted to nevertheless stop his vehicle, and accused the security of preventing them by producing "pistols and baseball bats".

The opposition Serb Radical Party (SRS) also pinned the blame for yesterday's incident on the minister's security.

In a statement afterwards, Bogdanović said that the government would in the future "not tolerates such attacks".

"The attack was perpetrated by the executor of a political option that does not wish to solve problems in Kosovo in a peaceful manner," he said, and added that dialogue was the only way to solve the problems of Kosovo's Serbs.

Bogdanović also accused local authorities and those organizing the road blocks aimed at EULEX personnel in northern Kosovo as bearing responsibility for the accident.

The protests in the north are aimed against EU mission, EULEX, and its decision to establish customs control at the Jarinje and Brnjak checkpoints on the administrative line. They will continue until EULEX changes its decision about introducing customs there, the protest's organizers said. The mission has repeatedly denied that it collects customs fees at the checkpoints.

The Serbs' campaign is not supported by official Belgrade, "nor the international community in the province", reports say.

The Ministry for Kosovo, headed by Bogdanović, criticized the protest by saying it served "to promote individuals' political interests". He also called for the problem to be solved "through dialogue and cooperation".

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