Serbia scrambled warplanes to intercept drones on the Kosovo-Serbia border on Wednesday, according to claims made by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic while Kosovo claims the move is designed to cause panic among citizens.
On Monday, a rule to gradually require all cars in Kosovo to display license plates issued by Pristina institutions would come into force, something Belgrade opposes as it would also require ethnic Serbs living in the north to relinquish their Slobodan Milosevic-era plates.
“Several drones appeared on the Kosovo-Serbia border, observing the barracks and positions of the Serbian army,” the Serbian authorities stated, reporting that President Aleksander Vucic then scrambled warplanes to intercept them.
Brnabic said that if it happened again, they would be “taken down” by any means.
The Minister of Defense of Kosovo, Armend Mehaj, in a post on social networks, rejected the claims of the Serbian authorities, stressing that they aim to create a “pretext for increasing the number of Serbian army troops around the border with the Republic of Kosovo, as a means of the spread of a state of panic on the citizens of both states”.
The rule was initially to be enforced in full on 1 November after being postponed from the summer due to US and EU pressure.
Kosovo’s Minister of Internal Affairs of Kosovo, Xhelal Sveçla, stated that the relations with the United States of America have not cooled and that Washington is not disappointed after the government decided for a staggering of measures regarding vehicle license plates.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Albin Kurti announced the rule would be enforced in stages. First, a warning would be in place until 21 November, followed by a fine for those not complying until 21 January 2023. Then between January and 21 April, provisional plates will be placed over the others. Then, from 21 April, any vehicle refusing to use legal plates will not be allowed to circulate.
On Tuesday, Serbian Defence Minister Milosh Vučević said the Serbian army had been put on alert due to the situation in Kosovo and because police had already started implementing warnings against drivers.
Sveçla told the media on Wednesday that the pressure from internationals had not led to strained relationships with them.
“We had a preliminary decision with which this period ended, but seeing the increased commitment of our allies in this regard and after their request, we decided to resolve this issue in stages. Even with different types of phases, but also with different time phases. I am convinced that this whole enterprise of the Republic of Kosovo will be enough to solve this problem once and for all,” he said.
The minister added that Serbs in the north are not against changing their number plates; instead, Belgrade is engaging in threatening behaviour using organised crime and extreme groups to create fear.